by Lynn Byrne
While cleaning out my massive amount of glossie clips, I came across a photo of the house built by Dorothy Rodgers, interior decorator and wife of composer Richard Rodgers. Back in the 1960s, she wrote a book about her experience which I own, titled The House in My Head.
Dorothy was quite famous in her own right (not just as Richard’s wife) as a designer, entrepreneur and author. The House in My Head was her second book. Click here to read about her first book, My Favorite Things.
Dorothy could be called an early Martha Stewart, because both of her books dealt with decorating, cooking, lifestyle and homekeeping (albeit a privileged lifestyle–Dorothy and Richard chose a Picasso as their Christmas gift to one another). The books present a charming. fairytale-like look inside an earlier era.
What was interesting to me (and I hope you) was that the photo in my files was of the house as it has recently been redecorated today by Susan Zises Green. Susan is quoted by HB as saying that she barely looked at Dorothy’s book. Funny, I would have poured over it.
Make no mistake, I would have changed whatever necessary to make the home lovely and comfortable for my clients. Still, I would have looked hard at the first version.
A quick search on housebeautiful.com turned up a number of other photos. Naturally I had to pull out my vintage book and compare.
Take a “peep”.
The giant living room. It still features a grand piano (obviously that was a necessity for Richard Rodgers), but here Susan reports that the new owners made a last minute decison to swap out the tile floors for wood. Apparently that caused a bit of a headache to the decorator….
This is the living room back in Dorothy’s day. Here you really can see how large the space is—it clocks in at almost 40 feet long—the Rodgers entertained often. More bookshelves. And that is the Picasso above the fireplace.
Plus you can see the storage wall built here that separated the kitchen/pantry from the living room. In the wall Dorothy stored extra tables, and it had a serving ledge for buffet meals (seen in the foreground). The wall also had a two-way passage that could be opened and closed as needed on the kitchen and living room side, to allow the servants (yes, servants) to swap out the courses.
The storage wall looks like it has been eliminated today. This is the section of the living room opposite the bookshelves as decorated by Susan.
No clue where Susan placed the dining room. The house intentionally did not have a formal dining room when built. Dorothy said she wanted to entertain more informally. She also said she never dreamed of living in the home without “help.” Wonder what type of staff the new family maintains?
Very different from Dorothy and Richard. They lived Dick Van Dyke style with 2 separate bedrooms, baths and dressing rooms. Sometimes I think having that type of space all to myself would be dreamy (one could always visit ). What do you think?
The next photo is a sitting room in the house today. Not sure where this is located. If I had to guess, I would say Richard’s old bedroom because Dorothy wrote that his room had one of the best views in the house.
This is the hall leading to the bedrooms. Susan felt that it needed wallpaper to warm it up.
Finally, this is what the outside of the house looked like when Dorothy built it. I am not wild about the architecture, though it does look better at night. Sorry folks, I don’t have an exterior shot from today.
Hope you enjoy a true sneak peek just as much as I do.
Photos from today from housebeautiful.com. Older photos from Dorothy Rodger’s book The House In My Head.