Maxine and Gary Smith moved to London from New York in 1971. Since then, Gary Smith, American television producer and winner of several Emmy Awards, has been working with Sir Lew Grade on television spectaculars, and Maxine Smith has been planning their London flat with Zandra Rhodes. The combination of their ideas has worked perfectly, with one taking over where the other left off. Initially, Zandra Rhodes designed a series of fabrics. Maxine Smith then had them printed to her own colour pattern by Alex McIntyre, often using the same colourway and design on different fabrics so that texture changes have been subtly worked from cotton to felt to satin. Some sur-faces are flat, others gathered – as in the hall where felt blends with draped cotton. Throughout there is an instantaneous impact of colour, wit and comfort. As one becomes accustomed to the colours, one realises that the sitting-room is designed for midnight rather than midday, the windows permanently shuttered and the curtains drawn. One notices the enormous portrait of Lenny Bruce by Gary Smith, ‘twenties’ armchairs with covered feet found by Maxine Smith in Antique City, the Vogue needlepoint cushions all worked by her mother. In the bedroom, apricot satin and taffetas with a felt print ceiling and apricot-coloured cupboards, the bed set on a mirrored podium, and covered with cushions. Other points of colour are the red telephone, the amber carpet. Next, a completely cupboarded dressing-room. Then, the apricot bathroom. Downstairs, past a neon sign—”I love Max”—and other such illuminations, to the dining-room: originally a cellar, now a brilliant blue small tent. The kitchen has dark rust-coloured prints, the ceiling hung with a thousand cooking utensils and an enormous electric lamp bulb found at Selfridges. Just off the kitchen a bar, a platform bat on steps, with three-tier cushions as bar stools, and an embroidery of Whistler’s mother by Malcolm Poynter, which came from the DM Gallery, Fulham Road. London’s galleries and off-beat furniture shops have produced many other pieces of art and amusement, some of them transformed by Zandra Rhodes’ coverings, others untouched, all with a special blend of humour and art.
Michael Szell is the Hungarian fabric designer who is introducing Iran to London via a new collection of designs, taken up by Thea Porter for her romantic and ravishing evening dresses. His own bedroom, opposite, is in rich emerald, turquoise and brown arabesqued linen, cool and grand by day but rich and warm by electric light, with 18th-century Eng-lish paintings and mirrors. His drawing-room, below, is turquoise with brilliant Persian prayer mats colouring the walls, 18th-century English botanical china, and a mixed forest of hyacinth and growing orchids, later bluebells and orchids. Iran runs through Michael Szell’s life like a thread. He began to visit friends and connections there while he was still a child, used every possible holiday to get there while he studied economics at Aberystwyth University, and later when he worked with Sir Nicholas Sekers. His love for Persian ceramics, buildings and woven carpets developed into a passion for early Islamic art in its formal, random, asymmetric period before it came to represent life in the 19th-century : a passion culminating in his opening his own furnishing fabric showrooms at 47 Sloane Avenue. He began selling silk signature scarves to Henri Bendel of New York in 1969 and has just produced his new Persian collection of fabrics. Thea Porter asked him to print his designs onto silk chiffon for her and made them in flowing evening dresses with yards of floating sleeve and skirt.
For the coronation of the Shahanshah and the Empress of Iran, Michael Szell designed curtains, chair-fabrics and an entire state banquet for the Golestan Palace. He has been asked again to help with the decorations for the great October celebrations—the twenty-fifth centenary of the founding of the Persian Empire. He will contribute designs for the interiors of houses and for some of the 500 tents that are planned, with their own marble bathrooms, for the royal and distinguished guests who will take part in the celebrations at Persepolis, the ruined city and ancient capital.
Mr Szell has also been asked to provide the fabrics for all the palace sets in the new Universal film Mary, Queen of Scots, starring Vanessa Redgrave as Mary and Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth. He has an unrealised ambition to produce an absolutely modern collection of very cheap fabrics “from chair covers to plastic shower curtains”.