Wednesday, February 11, 2009

By Any Other Name

Here, interior design legend Rose Cumming is photographed (in a relatively sedate mood) by Edward Steichen, circa 1932. Architectural Digest described Cumming's style as "eclectic, bizarre and often tinged with surrealism"; in addition to her fondness for the Gothic, Venetian, and Austrian Baroque periods, Cumming was also mad for Orientalism and collected "frogs, mice, monkeys, horses, dogs, cats, fruits and vegetables (ornamental ones, of course)." Outlandish and eccentric as she and her ethos might have been, both were always spot-on and drop dead chic.

Cumming's shop on 59th and Park in Manhattan was a legendary haven of over-the-top elegance; in July 1964, it and its proprietress were featured in Bazaar:

Original Caption: "The temporary New Yorker immediately makes herself at home in the shops. Like the Natives, she, of course, prefers simple, unpretentious little places and simple little purchases such as clothespins and eggbeaters. But by purest chance, she will tell her husband, she happened by Rose Cumming's antiques shop (Miss Cumming stands amidst its splendors) and just happened to find this absolutely irresistible chandelier."

It should be duly noted that, in the above photo, Miss Cumming's bejeweled robe was rather ordinary workday wardrobing for her; one delicately shudders in her memory to consider what she would think of "Dress Down Fridays." Miss Cumming died in 1968, and it wouldn't be overstating things to say that an era passed with her.



  1. You can understand, from that last photo, why it took courage to cross the threshold of that shop and why Miss Cumming did scarcely any business~not that it mattered to her!
    PS She also had the dubious distinction of having been the first woman to have mauve coloured hair.

  2. Try telling that to Dame Edna!