How To Decorate Like Style Icon Lee Radziwill


I’m counting down until the auction preview of Lee Radziwill’s estate at Christie’s/NYC! Lee (& her sister, Jackie O) are so well known for their fashion sense, it’s easy to forget their knack for creating iconic living spaces too. While a lot of the drama & beauty in Lee Radziwill’s homes was helped by her sky-high budget & the direction of Renzo Mongiardino, there are lessons in there that anyone can use - whether you are American royalty or not!!

LESSON #1: PICK A SIGNATURE COLOR AND OWN IT. Lee Radziwill was all about a very sophisticated pink….


Her living room in Paris = perhaps my favorite!!

Source: T Magazine

Source: T Magazine

The chairs are going on the auction block ($500-700) & will surely be topped by a crazy percentage….

Upholstered in “Mikado” by Le Manach

Upholstered in “Mikado” by Le Manach

What’s the color of happiness for you?? It can’t be the color you think is cool or of the moment — this has to be the color that speaks to you as energizing & comfortable at the same time. Oh, and by the way, you’ll carry this signature color through your whole life…right through your funeral procession: below Lee’s basket-casket draped in pink flowers (sorry the pic is a bit overexposed).


LESSON #2: USE CLASSIC DESIGN PRINCIPLES (SYMMETRY, SCALE, PROPORTION) TO CREATE A BASIC, COHESIVE ROOM ARRANGEMENT….THEN LAYER IN ACCESSORIES FOR SOME SPARKLE. As Lee told Architectural Digest all the way back in 1975: “I like to create rooms which are essentially traditional —and then add touches of the bizarre and the delicious."

the-new-york-living-room-of-lee-bouvier-radziwiłł-2400 2.jpg

Her NYC living room above had quite classical pieces & pale backdrop…but if you look closely you’ll see all kinds of fascinating pieces that add so much interest! For instance:


A lover of Eastern influence, Lee collected all kinds of prints & drawings from India…she had exquisite collection of 15 reverse-painted glass pictures (circa late 1800’s) that will begin bidding around $15,000 & will go multiples above that!


The ebonized Regency bench is also in that room but out of view — it’s almost sculptural, don’t you think? If you can’t afford a priceless gem like this (who can?!), the take-away for us is to find a couple of unique pieces that heighten visual interest & add big dose of personality to the room.


This lovely little “Pear” watercolor by the late great Mark Hampton — one of several pieces by artist/designer friends of hers — is also being auctioned off. The personal connection adds so much - maybe you can frame your wedding invitation or a drawing of your house?? Anything like that will add so much character to your room.


Lee adored animals & there are paintings and sculptures of them everywhere in her interiors. This French ormolu toucan (really reminds me of Fruit Loops - anyone else??) adds whimsy - as do the images she has of camels, horses, dogs, you name it….


We’ve already talked about how using a signature color can make your space feel instantly personal, but so can using “repetition of form” to your advantage. It’s an architectural tenet that suggests repeating a form to create rhythm in a space — or basically if one is good, many are better…so long as things are well-curated! For example, look at the drama that a whole collection of botanical prints gives below….

T Magazine (her Paris apartment)

T Magazine (her Paris apartment)

….or here are those Indian reverse-glass paintings all together (with Cabana founder Martina Mondadori) at Christie’s.


Or if you’re really brave, you can use “repetition of form” by layering pattern on pattern in the way that Lee did even when she was young….(Tory Burch has successfully done this not only in her houses but also her stores)


BTW, the floral watercolor below was done by Lee Radziwill - several of her original pieces are in the auction as well.


SO -now it’s time to do our homework in our own spaces! The photo below of her Paris apt. sums up the 3 lessons to me perfectly:

  1. Pick a signature color & own it (mine’s blue - check!)

  2. Don’t get crazy with your room layout - use classic design principles & then add sparkle with accessories (for me: work in progress)

  3. Leverage “repetition of form” to maximize interest! (for me: still on the to-do list:)





InteriorsLeland Prince