Friday, June 28, 2019

Gloria Vanderbilt's Patchwork Interior

Celebrity artist and designer Gloria Vanderbilt recently died at 95. Her greatest accomplishment may have been her estimable son journalist Anderson Cooper, but the second most memorable was her patchwork interior.

About 1970 you couldn't have enough pattern.

Or maybe you could.

In fact this interior design might summarize all the proverbial excess of the 1970s.

Now, some of it was wallpaper

And some of it was antique quilts hung on the walls.
Those framed paintings are Gloria's collages.

But a lot of patchwork had to die for this look.
Apparently the floor was blocks, fragments and fabric
varnished over.

Sunbonnet Sue, ok, cut her up for upholstery
but a signed, dated Pennsylvania-German fraktur album!!!!

(My learned correspondent tells me:
"Gads... it’s a William Gross! He’s the fraktur artist that draws flower pots for the recipient’s name." )

Well, it's all about marketing. And this apartment got Gloria's name in the papers.

Gloria Vanderbilt's story is a chapter in a classic American family tale. You can talk about events such as the Civil War, Reconstruction, the abdication of King Edward VIII and the Jazz Age through family biographies.

One of Dena's Dixie Diary tops. 

A few years ago we did a block of the month quilt called Dixie Diary, based on the Morgan/Vanderbilt family's Civil War story and the diary of Sarah Morgan. I concluded it with:
"Every thread of genealogy leads to impressive achievement in their real-life American saga. Cecil Morgan (Sarah's nephew Howell) tried unsuccessfully to impeach Louisiana Governor Huey Long. Howell himself and wife Thisba worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs on Sioux reservations and Cecil donated their collection of Sioux arts to the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. In France, Warrington (Sarah's son) was friends with authors Josef Conrad and Rudyard Kipling, as well as the Theodore Roosevelts. During World War I he worked at the American Embassy in Paris. As noted in an earlier post, Sarah's brother Philip's descendants include Thelma Furness, Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper."

Gloria's mother and her twin sister
Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt and Thelma Morgan, Lady Furness.

A recent picture of Gloria Jr.'s bedroom. Taste changes.

Read about the Morgans here:


  1. I loved this post, as I (somewhere in this house)(hopefully) have some yardage from her line of fabrics, and I still remember the pillows I made from her panel fabrics. They were fabulous. I enjoyed seeing all the patchwork, and appreciate your observation that "a lot of patchwork had to die" to make those interiors. But then it all was rather throwaway, in the fashion world's eye.

    Thank you!

  2. And I thought my house had a lot of "crap" in it! LOL LOL!!

  3. Amazing. I had no idea! Thanks for a different glimpse of this lady, known to many - myself inclused - as a clothing designer.

  4. It wasn't just the 1976 Bi-Centennial that spurred an interest in quilting. You can love or be horrified with her use of old quilts but she definitely brought attention to them.

  5. Thank you for this post. I had to chuckle at the idea of it maybe being ok to chop up a sunbonnet sue for upholstery. Hopefully the era of cutting up beautiful quilts for wallpaper and flooring are over! Made me shudder, but oh, I would have loved to spend an afternoon there to take it all in.

  6. A far cry from the present trend of simple gray/white uncluttered farmhouse look...am wondering what happened to all the patchwork, bits and pieces when the rooms were “updated”? I remember the clothing she wore, but was unaware of the home decorating going on. Thank you for a fascinating glimpse into this.

  7. How fascinating! I had no idea Gloria V's interior decorating was like that! Wow, must have been on overload anytime you went into her home!!!!

  8. I remember seeing these pictures back in the day. They were too much even for me, and I tend to be a bit over the top myself!

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