William Haines – A Man of Taste

I’ve long been an admirer of the 20th century American interior designer William Haines. He had a flair for creating interiors which combined simplicity and luxury — much like Chanel did for clothes. And the furniture he designed, many designs still available through www.williamhaines.com , are as covetable now as they were when the design first sprouted from Billy’s aesthetically atuned mind. One of Billy’s most famous quotes is “I would rather have taste than either love or money”. And taste is something Billy had in spades.

227751_409219152489290_548460250_n-225x300 william haines bill haines tux haines at home haines williamhaines_car Billy was talent scouted for Hollywood in 1922 and within a few years was an in-demand leading man. He was often cast opposite an up-and-coming flapper named Joan Crawford and the two became lifelong best friends. When he retired from movies in 1934, because the studio insisted he hide his homosexuality, something he refused to do, he opened an antique shop in Hollywood. It wasn’t long before Hollywood’s leading ladies, lead by Joan Crawford, were knocking on his door to have him design their homes in the new Hollywood Regency style he had invented in his own home — a style which brought together old world antiques with custom-made modern pieces, touches of Chinoiserie, exotic artifacts including animal skins and prints, and lots of mirrored and laquered surfaces…oh, and not to forget the luxurious velvet and silk curtains, swags and all. Billy pulled it all together into a look that was both glamorous and liveable. Genius. His new career as an interior designer was born.

Here’s Joan Crawford in her Haines designed living room in the 1930s…

haines crawford one

…and again, in the 1950s, where Haines’s signature tufted upholstery can be seen on the ottoman, and the upholstered chairs show Haines’s talent for simple but comfortable furniture.

haines crawford 2

Here’s another friend, Carole Lombard, in her 1930s living room — an early Haines Hollywood Regency design, complete with antique crystal chandelier and swagged curtains. The perfect glamorous frame from a glamorous client. Even at this early stage we can see his affection for tufted furniture.

lombard house haines

My favourite Haines designs came later in his career, in the 1950s and 1960s, when he really came into his own with his timeless furniture designs which sat perfectly in the more stream-lined interiors of the day — and which still work so well in contemporary interiors.




haines interior


haines interior 2


Some of his most famous furniture designs include the Brentwood chair, where he took inspiration from the ancient Greek klismos chair…

brentwood chair haines

…theĀ Malibu chair and ottoman…

haines malibu chair

…the Seniah chair (Haines spelled backwards), which came (and is still available through www.williamhaines.com ) in several models…



…the Elbow chair, which Haines designed so that women in ballgowns could sit on then sideways without crushing their dresses…


… tufted armless chair — a design classic…


…and the Valentine sofa, designed in 1950.


You can read more about William “Billy” Haines in the terrific book by Peter Schifando and Haines’s long-time assistant Jean H. Mathison.

haines book

William Haines, another design great.

About Adrienne Chinn

I'm a writer, blogger, interior designer, traveller, photographer, dog lover, foodie, slow jogger, nature walker, adventuress and aspiring eccentric.
This entry was posted in architecture, Colours, Contemporary Design, Hollywood Regency, inspiration, Interior Design, Interiors, Living Rooms, William Haines and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to William Haines – A Man of Taste

  1. My goodness, he really did have taste! Not just in design, but in clothes too, never seen a snazzier dressed man!

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