What Goes Around, Comes Around

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Posted October 20, 2014. Filed in John Dickinson, McMillen Inc.


Ann Pyne-Manhattan Apartment-Garden Room-Elle Decor Nov 2014-Björn Wallander

Are you an interior design junkie like me? Then chances are you did a double take when your eyes fell on this room designed by Ann Pyne, of the venerable American design firm McMillen, Inc., featured in the November issue of Elle Decor.  My first reaction was “This is daring … creative … whimsical … and vaguely familiar. Then it struck me: the architectural model facades with mirrors for windows once graced the San Francisco dressing room of the great California interior designer John Dickinson.

John Dickinson-SF-Dressing Room-The New York Times Book of Interior Design and Decoration-Jeremiah O. Bragstad

Photography by Jeremiah O. Bragstad

Used as doors for his closets c1972, the varying styles of facades were lined up along one wall of his dressing room, reminiscent of a nearby Victorian streetscape, rendered completely in white. Dickinson’s creative eye, inventiveness, and talent for reinterpreting the past produced such idiosyncratic revelries, often presented as chiaroscuros in white. Mark D. Ruffner wrote in September of 2012, in his blog All Things Ruffnerian, that these doors were going on the auction block with an opening bid at $12,000.

Ann Pyne-Manhattan Apartment-Garden Room-Elle Decor Nov 2014-Björn Wallander

Enter Ann Pyne. Two years following the auction they reappear, after a forty-three-year sleep, in the Upper East Side residence of Pyne’s anonymous client. With the directive to create something never before seen Pyne used Dickinson’s doors as a leitmotif for the direction of the garden room’s design and decoration. Instead of running them together she staggered them along several walls, even creating new ones in their likeness to complete the room. Separated they feel reminiscent of artist Louise Nevelson’s mixed media wall sculptures, which she constructed entirely in either white or black. With walls mimicking an urban town square Pyne had the floors stenciled in a stylized cobblestone pattern, a tongue-in-cheek metaphor. Elsewhere, the furnishings Pyne selected would be at home in any John Dickinson interior – custom sofas with chalky white faux bois bases; rustic Chinese- style chairs, designed for a Billy Haines interior, surrounding a marble table; white barley-twist floor lamps; and a white Giacometti-style chandelier.

John Dickinson-SF-Dressing Room-HG 1972

House & Garden, 1972

Photos of John Dickinson’s San Francisco dressing room from The New York Times Book of Interior Design and Decoration, Harper Collins, 1978, and House and Garden, 1972. The New York apartment designed by Ann Pyne featured in the November issue of Elle Decor was photographed by Björn Wallander.