Consider the late Luther Greene. He began his career as a theatrical director and producer in the 30’s and 40’s, then re-created himself as a landscape architect and garden designer in the 50’s. He called himself an “exterior decorator.”
Mr. Greene lived in a basement apartment on Manhattan’s East Side from the late 50’s until he died in 1987. The apartment was 120 feet long and 20 feet wide. He reported that he had seated dinner parties of 75 here. On good days he called it “Villa Subterranea” and on bad days it was “the longest submerged trailer in the world.”
The wonder of this apartment was Greene’s grotto. He was inspired to create it after seeing the mosaics in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice. He hired Ruth Ross, a former architectural designer, to create the room entirely of shells. There are 12,000 pieces of eight varieties of shells from all over the world. Greene’s New York Times obituary said he worked on the room for twenty years.
Another of Greene’s treasures is the set of the letters of his name in the form of naked figures, created by Salvador Dali in 1942. Greene used them on his cards and letterhead. He had one recreated in silver for his door knocker.
What pipe in the ceiling?
All images Architectural Digest, November 1979.