Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Thomas B. Britt

Tom Britt, New York salon, via Love Is Speed

Another of the fabulous New York designers I was most fortunate to be mentored by was Tom Britt.  Originally from Kansas City, Tom is a dynamo of a designer, and a true man of the world.  One summer, I worked in his office, making drawings, and going on trips to the job sites- it was a bit of a shock to see how those apartments were totally demolished, and the furniture in them would be piled in the middle of the rooms and covered with tarps...the reality of what decorators do was beginning to register! 

In order to fully appreciate the immersive experience I had, under Tom's guidance, you need to know, as I did, that Tom and Angelo (Donghia) attended Parsons together.  They even shared an apartment!  So, it was so interesting to me, having already seen Angelo's very glam east side duplex, with its two drawing rooms, one up and one down- and both in satin and then be overwhelmed by the high drama of Tom's two drawing rooms - both in boiserie~ and the upstairs one entirely in a Rose Cumming shade of blue satin...  with the famous Rose Cumming "banana leaves" fabric in the metallic gold colorway in the downstairs drawing room.  Now, add to all of this the maestro (Tom) with his booming, unique baritone voice being broadcast throughout.  Oh, and the Baron Nicholas de Gunzberg had also kept a place in Tom's building, on East 63rd Street. 

I was fascinated and a little intimidated by Tom's powerful and exotic personality, although he was a good friend to me and always treated me with great kindness.  After all, the eminence grise himself, Prof. Stanley Barrows, had said of me that I reminded him of Tom, when he taught Tom at Parsons!  (Stanley Barrows also taught me at FIT).  And now, Julie Britt (Tom's wife) and I are friends on Facebook!  Who knew?  I had only met her briefly when I worked for Tom, as they were no longer together.  A very nice lady.

What happened to sort of derail what I think would have been a brilliant career (for me) was that almost all of my friends and colleagues succumbed to the AIDS crisis.  I was left with Tom and Albert for a while, but this was all after I had moved out of NY and settled for good, in affluent and conservative Naples.  Los Angeles had called out to me, like a siren, and I did almost go out there- but strangely ended up in a town known as the Palm Beach of the west coast!  I call Naples a little town with a big ego.  Armistead Maupin mentioned it in one of his later works, and not in a kind way.  I wrote about it in my sketchy little potboiler called "Diamonds In The Sun" (available on Amazon books)...and so, here I am, after all these years, I'm still here.  DF ***** click here for a great Plum TV video on Tom, and his Hamptons estate....

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  1. Dean, I love hearing more about your background and experiences! Being a Kansas City lady, I have followed Tom and his illustrious career, rooms always so unique and stunning! Now I must look up your book!

    The Arts by Karena
    Stems Soiree

    1. Karen,
      So glad you are enjoying my post today. Some people make an indelible impression, and Tom is one of them. My book was self published (vanity press) by Author House - it needs some serious editing, but would make a great movie script! Enjoy!