Michael Taylor - Good Design is Timeless

With the possible exception of Hollywood, no single force has brought California to the world more powerfully than Michael Taylor. More than a quarter of a century after he created the California look - Taylor, for many, still epitomizes West CoastStyle. The James Dean of decorators is how Diana Vreeland described West Coast designer Michael Taylor I was a student in Design School when the picture below of Michael Taylor's work was published in Architectural Digest . I was totally in awe of his work. Nothing had been done like this before. It was revolutionary and very fresh. I became totally mesmerized by all things "Michael Taylor". The fixation is still going on. In the project I did that was featured in Architectural Digest I used Michael Taylor fabric on a sofa that I custom designed. Whenever I am in LA or San Francisco I make it a point to visit his showroom at the Design Center. He was one of my greatest mentors that I drew inspiration from and wanted to emulate. It was interesting to me to learn that his 3 greatest mentors were women: Syrie Maugham, Elsie de Wolfe & Francis Elkins. I just wish that he had lived longer. He passed away in 1988 at the age of 59. Consistently denouncing the cluttered and pretentious, he had a simple ethos: "When you take things out, you must increase the size of what's left." This spawned the widely emulated California Look, which in the latter part of his career was characterized by oversize furniture and signature elements, including Yosemite slate and fossilized stone; plump geometric cushions; logs; wicker; and lots of mirrors, all against a muted backdrop of white on white or beige on beige. Michael Taylor was born in Modesto, California in 1927 and found early inspiration at a neighbor's house, where he first saw the work of Elsie de Wolfe. Syrie Maugham, the British decorator who helped create the all-white look popular in the 1920s, provided another source of inspiration to him. A third influence was American decorator Frances Elkins (Taylor acquired a substantial portion of Elkins' estate, including pieces originally from Syrie Maugham).
Schiaparelli sofa Taylor rivaled the legendary fashion editor Diana Vreeland in his use of maxims - "Red and green should never be seen!" was one of his favourites. "If in doubt, take it out!" was another.
Taylor believed that white was the most efficient color for capturing natural light.
This is a room Michael designed circa mid 1950's in Modesto, California


  1. Wow - the earlier designs are SO different from the later. That second picture is probably his most famous shot. Notice the twig sculpture in the sixth picture - that's so "in" today. Amazing he's been gone for so long. Great post!

  2. I just love this post and tribute to a great designer!! Very inspirational!


  3. Big fan of Michael Taylor and I love that piece about "James Dean of decorators"!!! Great post :)


  4. You can definitely see the influence of Maugham and Elkins in his work. The photo at the bottom looks like it could have been taken in 2007!

  5. Great post ! I liked his later designs. I'm sure that his work still influences alot of young designers. If you love the world of interior design you might want to tune into HGTV this Sunday July 22nd for the second season of Design Star where 11 aspiring designers will be battling it out for their own show, if its anything like last season then viewers are in for a treat. Here are some of the clips http://www.hgtv.com/hgtv/design_star/. Just sharing since i work with HGTV.

  6. He is definitely a California classic! Great post!

  7. smitten. my favourite space is the outdoor living space overlooking the rocky coast. I look forward to owning my precariously perched, coastal California home one day soon. Maybe Michael can lend a creative eye to my outdoor space.


Patricia Gray | Interior Design Blog™

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