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Then: Sutton Place

In 1972, the interior designer Valerian Rybar was the mastermind behind the world’s most glamorous homes. His Sutton Place apartment was no exception.


Photographs by Ezra Stoller

Valerian Rybar was considered the “world’s most expensive decorator” in 1972. His clients were the ritziest in town: Samuel and Mitzi Newhouse, Guy and Marie-Hélène de Rothschild, Elizabeth Arden, the Plaza Athénée Hotel. And while Rybar doled out some serious fabulousness to his clients, he most certainly didn’t skimp when it came to his own Sutton Place home. His luxurious six-room lair was done up in just three colors—coral, brown, and silver—proving that Rybar had a way of making even the simplest palettes thrilling. The living-room walls were lined with coral velvet; the dining room was plastered with 400 brown books—all fake, but bound, with titles relating to various chapters of his life (one of them, called “International Boredom,” was alleged to allude to Rybar’s seven-year marriage to Irish brewing heiress Aileen Guinness). The “books” ran floor-to-ceiling in the dining room and gallery. His preference for silver was perhaps the most compelling. He used stainless steel on the fireplace, coffee tables, sinks, closets, cabinets, bathtub, walls, and even the floor. Rybar had it etched to look, “as precious as a Fabergé box.” (Rybar lived here with his partner, Jean-Francois Daigre, until his death in 1990 at age 71.)


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