Little Man Complex


Sometimes in life, and in design, you have to take on the big questions. And sometimes, you just need to ask yourself, “Who is that man break dancing in the middle of my table?”


Van Day Truex, The Man Who Defined Twentieth-Century Taste and Style, Adam Lewis, 2001.

These aren’t men, of course, they are boys. And they aren’t dancing, they’re diving. And it’s not my table, though I would gladly claim everything on it except that blush wine. This is the table of Van Day Truex and some of the classic items he created for Tiffany. Drabware plates, bamboo silver, Liverpool jug, dolphin candlesticks, All Purpose wine glasses. The striking Franzini “Diving Boys” sculptures were his own.

House and Garden, March, 1992.
My guess would be that these are the same sculptures here in Albert Hadley’s apartment. They are not mentioned or credited in the article, but Hadley talks a great deal about enjoying “objects with associations.”

Hadley was a student of Truex’s and they were friends from the time Hadley enrolled in Parson’s until Truex’s death.


House and Garden, December, 1991.

Here Hadley and Gary Hagar, of Parish-Hadley, use very similar sculptures in the living room of Louise and Henry Grunwald. While these figures are striking, they are definitely accents in the room. Objets. You know, stuff.

Hadley was frustrated with clients who “have no possessions and bring nothing along, you feel that there has been no life before.”


C.Z. Guest’s library, House and Garden, October, 1988.

It takes a while to accumulate the kind of things that give a room dimension and it’s easy to spend your energy on the paint and the rug and the curtains and the sofa.

This image and the one below, Mariette Himes Gomez, Houses: Inside and Out.
Just make sure at the end of the day when you are easing back into your favorite chair, that the glass that you set down on the table, or the thing that you nudge aside as you put your feet up on the table, make sure that it is something that is yours.

That there is a story behind it, even if the story is, “I saw it and I had to have it.”


Not so much, “I got it on sale at Target.”

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16 thoughts on “Little Man Complex

  1. I just finished reading Hadley’s biography — those are, indeed, Truex’ sculptures in Hadley’s house. The two were friends, and Truex bequeathed them to Hadley.

  2. Clever little man, indeed that van day Truex knew what he loved.

    off to e-bay.. in pursuit of “little man”
    bronze all the way baby!

  3. Mamacita – thanks for confirming – I had thought I had read that as well, but could not put my hands on it last night.

  4. I remember Hadley pointing out those diving boys on a video tour of his apartment with Alexa Hampton.

    And your post made me smile — I think I’m swimming in “interesting objects” but need more refined walls and floors 🙂

    Also, love seeing the Guest library.

  5. Courtney – from what I’ve seen, your walls and floors are doing just fine. And, yes, the Guest house (ha) is amazing. I’ll post the whole layout soon.

  6. I’ve always loved these Franzini sculptures- and it’s interesting to see how Truex and Hadley have displayed them in their respective homes.

  7. I love Bunny Williams’ story about the weekend that Truex spent at their country house — and insisted that her re-done kitchen MUST be white — no other color would do for a kitchen. And she has kept it painted white — just to honor his memory! ((from her wonderful book “An Affair with A House”))

    Jan at Rosemary Cottage — whose budget does tend to Target but whose thoughts, hopes and dreams wander along different places …..

  8. Jan – everytime the subject of re-doing the kitchen comes up I remind Mr. Blandings – it must be white. I know he’s thinking Van Day who?

  9. Careful Mrs B, the Truex bamboo is to the Decorno Anons what a red rag is to a bull. Evidently it is Wearstlerville too.
    Love it – Not so much, “I got it on sale at Target.
    Ain’t it the truth.

  10. My son thinks The Boys of Summer is a great song, but he’s never heard of Don Henley. It’s sometimes difficult to recognize genius when you’ve only seen it spray painted neon yellow in the discount bin at the big box store.

  11. Great story… I have some of my dad’s “trinkets” picked up from 70+ years of travelling. He could tell you the story behind each and every piece… I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I love Target, but it just doesn’t have the same cachet as picking it up in a souk in Marrakesh.

  12. Those sculptures are just divine!! Thanks for the post, I hadn’t heard of the artist before. HOWEVER – a glass of a good spanish rose is heavenly on a hot day 🙂

  13. hey now, mrs. blandings- are you making fun of my most favoritist planter ever, purchased on sale at le tarjay for $3.99?

    http://maison21.blogspot.com/2008/01/love-it-or-hate-it-mass-design-makes.html

    and it’s ok if you are… maison21 can take it! 😉

    i also agree with you 100%! in my dining room right now (along with the target planter) there are a pair of dolphin candlesticks given by mother to my father- a lover of all things related to the sea (he was retired navy captain turned oceanographer). they are old, beat up and in need of some serious tlc, and i love them tremendously, as-is.

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