William “Billy” Baldwin (1903-1983) designs were immaculately timeless. His name became the byword for exemplary American design. Billy Baldwin’s style was crisp, elegant, simple and practical.
Baltimore, Maryland native, Billy Baldwin briefly studied architecture at Princeton and sold insurance at his father’s agency before making the leap into decorating. His early influences include Frances Elkins, Jean-Michel Frank, and the paintings of Henri Matisse. Baldwin worked for the Baltimore decorating firms C.J. Benson & Co. and H. Chambers Co. before catching the eye of famed New York decorator Ruby Ross Wood in 1935. Billy Baldwin moved to New York to work for Ruby Ross Wood where his career took off. After Wood’s death in 1950, Baldwin ran her firm for two years before opening Baldwin & Martin Inc. in 1952 with his former assistant Edward Martin.
Billy Baldwin’s signature style perfectly blended classicism with modernism. He appreciated a sleek and polished aesthetic. Baldwin’s approach to decorating incorporated luxurious simplicity with a personal touch. He never insisted on throwing out everything a client had, instead he believed in using some of the client’s possessions as a way to make sure the home retained their personality.
Billy Baldwin’s clients include Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Diana Vreeland, Greta Garbo, Paul & Bunny Mellon, Nan Kempner, Brooke Astor, and Cole Porter, among many others.
Billy Baldwin designs often included bold wall colors, cotton upholstery and slipcovers, simple draperies, plaster lamps, wicker, rattan and bamboo, Turkish Ottomans, Parsons Tables, X Benches, and especially the Slipper Chair (which he is said to have designed with Pauline de Rothschild’s tall, slender frame in mind) and Étagère Bookcases (the brass étagère bookcases he designed for Cole Porter’s Waldorf apartment were inspired by a British serving cart).
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