Welcome to Moonlighting, a new Curbed column in which the talented Raina Cox of If the Lamp Shade Fits takes a look at design players whose first job may not have been design. Some triumph, some flop, and some should never, ever give up their day job.
The new line of bedding, bath, and tabletop by Studio 54 alumnus and fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg is actually her second go-at-it in the home-furnishings arena. Shortly after the famous 1976 Newsweek cover story declaring her the most marketable designer since Coco Chanel, DVF was approached to create bedding for Sears. Not content to limit herself to the boudoir, DVF countered with a deal to create an entire branded home collection, in doing so beating Ralph Lauren to the punch by six years.
The grandly named Diane von Furstenberg Style for Living Collection encompassed bedding, bath, curtains, dinnerware, rugs, and furniture. "Designing furniture for Sears was harder [than other categories]," she writes in her memoir. "The furniture people were also harder to work with. They didn't feel I had the qualifications to design furniture. But I learned from them as well."
Sold exclusively in Sears stores and catalogs, the line enjoyed immense popularity in the late 1970s and early 1980s. DVF's image of haute hippie Euro princess turned mega-designer and successful businesswoman played well with her newly liberated American customer. Buying jungle bloom sheets could transport a Midwestern housewife to DVF's jet-set world of exotic travel, Brazilian lovers, and art world companions.
New collections for the line played off previous designs and were introduced seasonally. Shoppers were given a reason to regularly refresh their homes with the assurance that new purchases would coordinate perfectly—a genius marketing strategy. "Years later," she writes, "I would use that same concept in clothes by building a coordinated wardrobe piece by piece in the line I sell on television." In its seven-year run (1977 to 1984), Style for Living's annual sales grew from $35 million to more than $100 million.
That present-day collection riffs on her upscale boho clothing designs, featuring boldly colored and wildly patterned housewares—not to mention unusually geometric tableware (below) that's a deviation from the old standard. DVF describes the pieces as "not a matching collection but a language" designed to "combine effortlessly with a woman's own finds." This, of course, presumes a certain existing flair on the customer's part. The line, which was featured in the CFDA's designer showhouse in NYC this fall, offers bedding and dinnerware with future plans for furniture and home accessories. Having never met a licensing deal she didn't sign, DVF has also recently made over several suites at Claridge's Hotel in London and designed floor coverings for The Rug Company.
· Diane: A Signature Life by Diane Von Furstenberg and Linda Bird Francke [Google Books]
· "Under the Volcano with Diane von Furstenberg" [NYMag]
· Get an Early Look at DVF Home at the Aldyn's Showhouse [Racked NY]
· All Diane von Furstenberg coverage [Curbed National]
· Diane von Furstenberg's New Venture [Elle Decor]
· Piano Suite by DVF [Claridge's]
· Diane von Furstenberg [The Rug Company]