Barbara D'arcy

Époustouflant: The Style of David Snyder

[ED: The line between decorating and visual merchandising can get a little muddy, though department stores have a long history of nurturing decorating talent. Designers like Barbara D'arcy (Bloomingdale's), William Pahlmann (Lord & Taylor), Karl Springer (Lord & Taylor, Bergdorf Goodman), and, to a degree, Simon Doonan (Barney's) served as visual merchandisers, craftsmen and in-store decorators capable of both defining the visual language of their store's brand, and pre-internet, communicating new styles and aesthetic concepts to customers in innovative and intelligent ways. (In reverse, see also Kelly Wearstler's line of tchotchkes for Bergdorf Goodman.)

David Snyder, OG Design Bear and personal shopper to Oprah, served as Vice President Director of Home Fashions for Chicago's Marshall Field & Company from 1979 until his death in 1991. What follows are images of some of his retail vignettes and "Trend Houses," created for Marshall Field during his tenure. All are taken from his monograph, Epoustouflant: The Style of David Snyder, which includes thirty of his room designs for Marshall Field. More information on the work of David Snyder is available here, via the Chicago Tribunehere, via the Orlando Sentinel, and here, via Google Books and Scouting Magazine.]

"The inspiration for this house—a hunting lodge, really—comes from my many travels through Germany, where I'm always impressed by the masculine elegance of style and color. Yet I designed the furniture used here as a very contemporary line for Thayer Coggin in High Point, North Carolina, so I was eager to try it in this particular period setting.

In my usual way, I would up liberally mixing a number of different styles in the Bavarian House: Bavarian, of course, along with English, Italian, French, and American. The antlers over the living room hearth come from the Black Forest, and the gold-leafed falcons were hand-carved for me in Italy. The iron and wood tables I found in France, and I had the wonderful chandelier made domestically to go with it all. The inspiration for the wall treatment of mahogany boards and plaster came from a building I admire in Verona. And what can I say? Anything that knocks you out is okay!" [1]

"David Snyder, 54, who designed Marshall Field & Co.`s Trend House for more than a decade and whose sense of style influenced home products sold across the nation, died of cancer Sunday in St. Joseph Hospital.

As vice-president home fashions director of Field`s from 1979 until 1990, Mr. Snyder was responsible for the over-all style direction of the department store`s home goods including furniture, home textiles and accessories.

He was best known to Chicagoans for the bold and dramatic interiors he created each spring and fall in the Trend House, the 3,000-square-foot home model in the State Street store. The Trend House alternately delighted and bemused visitors with Mr. Snyder`s signature extravagant, often over-sized, furniture and accessories." [2]

"Though I originally developed this look with a small, sophisticated city apartment in mind, it's actually perfect for the kind of cozy country weekend residence popular with city people. In the bedroom, mattress ticking, used for the upholstery and the curtains, feels at the same time both casual and elegant. Complementing that feeling are a sleigh bed with down comforter and, from Interior Crafts, two French bergère chairs and a steel table. Introducing a contemporary touch is a standing neon lamp from Kovacs." [1]

"'David Snyder was a creative genius and he combined that with a very sure sense of merchandising and I think he produced for Marshall Field's some of the greatest successes both in model rooms and merchandise stories,' said Philip Miller, vice-chairman of Saks Fifth Avenue, New York City, and former chairman of Field's.

It was within those sometimes larger-than-life interiors, however, that Mr. Snyder oversaw the creation of entire collections of products with a far- reaching impact. Under his direction, Field's staff sought new ideas and themes for products which could be made exclusively for the chain.

'He had a wonderful talent for understanding a concept and then bringing it into products for everyday living,' said Tina Johnson, general manager of Saks Fifth Avenue Old Orchard, who had been Mr. Snyder's boss as Field's senior vice-president of the home store.

'David's was a strong voice in the home furnishings industry where he always stretched for what was innovative and different,' said Jim Sloan, director of the Baker, Knapp & Tubbs showrooms. 'Many of us learned a great deal from him.'" [2]

"The cornerstone of my design philosophy, I think, may be summed up by the phrase 'theater of the home.' As Shakespeare said, 'All the world's a stage.' I certainly agree with that. What better place could a person choose to be onstage than in his or her own home? Your environment is your creation, your stage set, and your life can be a work of art. You have the ability to design, to your taste, your own backdrop—a stage upon which you can most fully enjoy playing out the scenes of your life." [1]

"Mr. Snyder frequently traveled to Europe, developing close contacts with craftsmen and companies abroad. He worked with Marella Agnelli, wife of Fiat magnate Gianni Agnelli, in launching her first home textile collection in the United States. Among the many products which he helped developed was a pastel water lily pattern inspired by Giverny, the home of artist Claude Monet.

Mr. Snyder studied at the Parsons School of Design in New York and the University of Tampa in Florida. Known nationally for his bold and controversial style, his works appeared in House and Garden and other magazines.

He had collaborated with some of the most highly respected talent in the home field including John Mascheroni and Andree Putman as well as with American manufacturer Thayer Coggin. He designed furniture for Boffi Furniture of Italy and fabrics for P. Kaufmann Inc., New York." [2]

"In the library, I've introduced a few flashes of color, particularly turquoise, into the grey-and-white scheme. All the contemporary upholstered furniture is, again, my design. The ceramic stove was imported from Italy, and I've eclectically added a pair of wooden Windsor chairs." [1]

"The bedroom of the American Barn is a marvelous study in grey and white. The queen-size bed's bamboo-shaped posts were cast in fiberglass; the tree-shaped lamps beside the bed are iron, whit white patent-leather shades. I've used white chintz fabric throughout the room—take special note of the reverse canopy—and have given the entire setting a background of dark-grey stone floor and grey walls. The large, mottled Greek olive pot was, like everything else, expressly selected for this room." [1]

"In the fifties, black and white with red was a very popular combination, thanks in part to Christian Dior. Here I've used black and white, with a few red accents, in a very avant-garde, Eurostyle setting that I think also looks very Japanese. The furniture is contemporary Italian, the deck flooring horizontal stripes in black and white; look around the room and you'll see a huge variety of materials—iron, lacquer, Lucite, ceramic—all in black and white." [1]

"You ought to explore. You have to be open to experimentation. Most important, don't be afraid. If you allow diversity into your life, you will become a more interesting person. You will grow and become more confident. You can change your life, and in the process create a nurturing environment for you and your family—a home that is yours alone." [1]