Heirloom: Waiting in the wings

The Angelo chair

“I would rather have taste than love or money,” quipped William Haines, a Hollywood actor who won more fame as an interior designer and antiques dealer. Haines, who signed with MGM in the 1920s, was not short of love or money – he built a thriving and celebrity-endorsed design business and, along with his partner Jimmie Shields, was one half of “the happiest married couple in Hollywood”, according to his friend and client Joan Crawford.
But it is his taste that endures, and a recently reissued piece from his early furniture collection is most certainly one that your descendants will be thrilled to inherit. The Angelo chair (around £4900), originally in cherry wood and now in black walnut, was first custom-made in 1937 for Jack Warner’s wife, Ann, just two years after the young actor’s film career came to an abrupt end. Part of his renovation of the Warner Brothers’ chief’s estate in Beverly Hills, the chair belonged to a set made to match an octagonal card table, also designed by Haines. Its pointed, wing-like arms, framed and studded with antiqued brass nails, were a precursor to the bold geometric lines of his soon-to-be celebrated midcentury Italianate aesthetic.
The chair, upholstered in luxurious leather, is still made by the same California manufacturers used by the Haines house for fifty years. It is only the latest in a series of the designer’s classics to undergo a revival by William Haines Designs. Words by Rosie Duncan.