Roy Halston had a cascade of flown steps in his Manhattan mansion and it served to give him the air of a gallant of a melodrama when he descended to his living room to receive his guests. The invention could also turn a simple bathroom visit into an Alfred Hitchcock sequence. Ask him if not the one who was director of the magazine Interview and Andy Warhol’s right-hand man in the seventies, Bob Colacello, who in a recent report on the legendary dressmaker’s house parties – evoked in Halston, the new Netflix series about his life – he still shuddered when he remembered the night he saw an almost octogenarian Diana Vreeland begin to climb those fearsome steps. Under that roof, a scene was then macerated that brought together Elizabeth Taylor, Bianca Jagger or Liza Minnelli. They were served a feast of “baked potatoes with caviar and sour cream and a small mountain of cocaine for dessert,” as the famous former editor of Vogue, Andrée Leon Talley, in his memoirs In the trenches of fashion.
That floating staircase without handrails was not – and this was recognized on another occasion by a Halston’s niece – the safest option for a house that used to function as an anteroom to the Studio 54 nightclub. to panic when you see it. Lewis Turner, the boyfriend of the first owner of the house (a lawyer named Alexander Hirsch), for example, was dizzy. He only ventured into the guest rooms a dozen times during the seven years he lived there. In addition to climbing the stairs, you had to cross a walkway that also lacked any kind of guardrails. Halston, on the other hand, was not afraid of heights, least of all at the time he bought the house.
At the beginning of 1974, the designer had just been crowned king of fashion in the United States in the parade of the famous Battle of Versailles – and after selling his brand for a few million – when he began to scan the real estate market of New York in search of of your own château. I was on a roll. His real estate agent informed him that 101 East 63rd Street, a former 19th-century garage converted into a single-family home, had just come up for sale that had long caught the attention of the dressmaker with its imposing steel facade and tinted glass.
Also on the inside he liked it a lot. Considered a swan song of modern architecture, The 101, As the mansion would be known after Halston moved into it, it had been renovated in 1967 by Paul Rudolph, a former student of the founder of the school of the bauhaus, Walter Gropius, famous for giving a final breath to the refined International Style before postmodernism began to fill the architecture with Mickey Mouse heads and colorful Greek columns. Thanks to him, the greasy old garage was turned into a house as minimalist and sophisticated as the famous dresses of Ultrasuede by Roy Halston.
“Eliminate, eliminate, eliminate! Until you get the true sense of the line, ”Halston’s most admired designer, Cristóbal Balenciaga, had once advised a young Hubert de Givenchy. And so had Rudolph done in The 101. The most impressive space in the house was the living room, a concatenation of walkways, steps, and balconies where the architect had eliminated walls, railings and any obstacle that prevented the view from flying freely through the three heights of that enormous room. The room gave the impression of being a set waiting for the actors to arrive.
The 101Halston himself once declared, it appeared to have been built specifically to his tastes despite being commissioned by a previous owner. Although, as a good spiritual son of Balenciaga, he could not resist the temptation to continue eliminating things: “I wanted to remove what was only decorative”, Halston explained to The New York Times in 1977. “I like that the house is white and sparse.”
Outside were the bookshelf that was next to the stairs and the mural that adorned the living room, while the tropical garden that Rudolph had built over the old charcoal garage of the garage was replaced by a bamboo forest: this plant is more minimalist than a palm tree . Nothing superfluous seemed, on the contrary, to Halston, the fireplace, which he insisted on keeping it burning all year round with the consequent waste of air conditioning during the summer. In it one night the designer Elsa Peretti threw the fur coat that Halston had given her as compensation for the iconic bottle that she had created for her first perfume, but that is another story.
As for the sofas and the rest of the furniture, they were made to measure by Paul Rudolph himself, whom Halston had the grace to hire to carry out the renovation. The living room floor was lined with what the dressmaker called Suede, a transcript of the fabric that had made him rich – the Ultrasuede- with which in 1977 he created a collection of “simple and elegant” rugs and carpets for the Karastan firm. As noted The New York TimesNow Halston was not only behind his designs, he lived on top of them.
In January 1990, two months before he died of AIDS in a San Francisco hospital, Halston sold The 101 to the photographer Gunter sachs, who among other changes replaced the gray carpet in the living room with an American oak floor and protected the dizzying walkway and balconies with glass screens. Since 2019, the mansion belongs to another famous fashion designer, Tom fordBut when New Yorkers pass by and stop to admire its facade, enigmatic as the sunglasses that hide the face of a movie star, they continue to murmur the name of Halston.
The 101 it was not only his home. It was also a three-dimensional coat of arms in which all his attributes (the orchids for which he paid 150,000 dollars a year -almost a million dollars at the time-, his Warhol paintings …) claimed the prominence they already had. in the inner world of the designer. He was so attached to him that when the New York City Council decided to cut down the trees that lined the entrance during the construction of a new subway line, Halston had a fit of activism A la Tita Thyssen and decided to do everything possible to protect them. According to Steven Gaines in the biography on which the Netflix series is based –Simply Halston: The Untold Story- the designer came up with rolling tree trunks with American flags. The workers would not dare to outrage the national symbol. When that didn’t work, he threw a jacket over his shoulders and went out into the street to face them. “But here we don’t need a meter. The residents of this block are rich enough to afford a taxi, ”he argued. It was the time when he was still flying high, very high and without a guardrail.