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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

William "Billy" Haines

William "Billy" Haines (1900-1973) was born in Staunton, Virginia. He left home for New York City while only in his teens, eventually finding his way to Hollywood. By the end of the silent film era, he was rated the #1 male box-office draw.

His acting career ended abruptly when he refused to comply with the ultimatum of Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM, to deny his homosexuality, leave his lover Jimmie Shields and enter a sham marriage with a woman, all for the sake of the studio's image. The two remained partners for almost 50 years, till the death of Haines in 1973.

Supported by his fellow actors, his new career as an antique dealer and interior designer burgeoned. In 1939 he designed a desert-themed living room for World's Fair in San Francisco. By the 1950s he was designing furniture and decorating homes for Hollywood elite. Some of his clients were Joan Crawford, Marion Davies, Gloria Swanson, Carole Lombard, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Walter and Leonore Annenberg and Betsy Bloomingdale. Haines is quoted as once having said, "I would rather have taste than love or money."

William Haines Designs is still in operation, with main offices in West Hollywood and showrooms in New York, Denver, Colorado, and Dallas, Texas. The company is enjoying the current demand for Hollywood  Regency designs, selling Hollywood Glamour furniture designed by Haines and produced by the same California manufacturer for the past fifty years.

From and Class Act: William Haines Legendary Hollywood Decorator by Peter Schifando and Jean H. Mathison

1939 World's Fair Desert Room

Gallery and game room for Robert and Anne Windfohr

Brody Residence with A. Quincy Jones

Entrance to original William Haines Designs

Pull-Up chairs

Elbow chair

Pewter lamps


  1. Never heard of Haines. Hollywood's loss is interior design's gain. Those lamps are just fantastic. And I want that white iron frame sofa!

    1. Haines really had a flair, didn't he? I wonder what that iron frame sofa is going for today. I ought to call the showroom in Dallas and ask.

  2. If I could resurrect the dead, it would be him - but only if he could do my room like the white one up there. He was a true artist and his houses were lovely. He truly had "the eye".

    1. I agree about that white room. I keep going back to look at that picture again and again. There's something so dramatic, yet so soothing, about that space. And the room is accessorized to perfection. I want it all...every dish, fruit bowl, statue, plant and pillow.

  3. I declare the Brody Residence "hairpin heaven."

    1. It almost made the cut for the "All hairpins, all the time" category.