Partner Charles Posey

Queer Places:
Valdemar Slott, Slotsalleen 100, 5700 Svendborg, Denmark
1055 Green St, San Francisco, CA 94133
Harvard University (Ivy League), 2 Kirkland St, Cambridge, MA 02138
Robert W. Roper House, 9 E Battery, Charleston, SC 29401
27 E 11th St, New York, NY 10003
Edgewater, 268 Dock Rd, Barrytown, NY 12507
150 E 38th St, New York, NY 10016
Guigne Court, Crystal Springs Rd & Parrott Drive, Hillsborough, CA 94010

HAIL30_PH2.jpg Andy Hail, right, with Andy Warhol in 1981. Steve Ringman/ San Francisco Chronicle File Photo/ 1981Anthony Godwin Hail (October 23, 1924 - September 26, 2006) was an elder statesman of the San Francisco interior design scene who influenced dozens of young designers with his classical approach. Hail was known for an elegant, Old World style of design that was centered around antiques but was never stuffy. Hail's circle of friends grew with his annual travels to Europe, and included jet-setters such as Alexis von Rosenberg, Baron de Redé; Arturo López Willshaw, a Chilean whose fortune was made in guano; and the writers Truman Capote and Gore Vidal. But when Hail entertained at home, it was low-key -- cocktails, roast chicken and mashed potatoes, said longtime friend Randolph Arczynski. "The conversation," he said, "was the most important thing."

Born in Houston, Texas, Anthony Godwin Hail grew up in Denmark where his stepfather was in business. “I lived in a handsome manor house, and was surrounded by the most beautiful country houses in the world, impeccably run,” said the fastidious Hail. One favorite was Valdemar Slott, a 17th-century baroque castle near Troense in the southern Funen archipelago of Denmark. This country house by the sea has a romantic tea pavilion near the water. It’s still privately owned by the Juel family, and open to the public. It’s opulent, with twelve glittering crystal chandeliers in the entry hall. Much of the furniture is Louis XVI.

The family moved to France where his design education continued. “We lived in a townhouse just near the gates of Versailles for a magical time when I was a boy. It was the best education. I played in the King’s potager, ran in Le Notre’s gardens, and saw all of the palace interiors.” In Paris, he feasted his eye on historic interiors. “I have always been influenced by legendary Hotel Lambert, one of the most beautiful, historic private residences in Paris, overlooking the Seine,” he commented. “The staircases and rooms were all superbly proportioned, gracious and very formal. The sumptuous 17th-century architecture is by Louis le Vau, who designed Versailles and worked on the Louvre.”

Image may contain Furniture Chair Human Person Clothing Apparel Footwear Shoe Sitting Architecture and Building
Designer Anthony Hail, left, and partner Charles Posey

Pair of Chinese Black Glazed and Gilt-Decorated Faceted Vases mounted as lamps. A gift from Billy Baldwin in 1963

He later returned to the United States and attended Harvard Graduate School of Design, which was then under the direction of Walter Gropius. “It was all very modern, don't you know,” Hail says. Even so, he remained firmly grounded in the past, writing his thesis on the architecture of Thomas Jefferson. After two key apprenticeships—one as an architect on the renovation of the White House during the tenure of President Truman, another to the New York furniture designer Edward Wormley—Hail returned to Europe in the late 1940s, spending time in Denmark before moving to Capri, Rome, and Paris. “I was hungry to go back,” he says. “I stayed for a number of years.” Another kind of education took place. There were new friends—Mona, countess of Bismarck, and Daisy and Fred de Cabrol—and there were majestic houses. “It gave me an eye,” Hail notes about his travels. “If I were giving advice to any young designers, I would send them to Europe to do exactly what I did.”

For a time, Hail worked in London for Vogue magazine and also lived in Paris, becoming acquainted with princes and princesses by virtue of connections such as British designer David Hicks, who married Pamela Mountbatten, cousin of Queen Elizabeth.

Hail moved to San Francisco in the 1950s and started a design business with A-list members of society circles: the Gettys, the Thieriots, the de Guignes and celebrity clients in Southern California, including actor James Garner. His work was featured in countless magazines, including Architectural Digest. House Beautiful’s Jennifer Bowles called Hail the “éminence grise of the San Francisco design community.” He credited his time in San Francisco with influencing his design aesthetic, which focused on blending Chinese decorative arts with British and Continental European antiques within the same space. “I arrived in San Francisco in 1955, a golden time,” said Hail, who initially worked on projects with New York designer Billy Baldwin, a mentor. “Soon after I arrived, I started work for Mrs. Henry Carter Russell, then for Whitney Warren, and two years later Eleanor de Guigne, a woman of great taste and style, found me and she single-handedly made my career.”

During his career, which stretched from the late 1950s to the 1990s, his wealthy clients -- whether in the Bay Area, across the nation or around the world -- wanted their homes to reflect a luxurious, almost aristocratic aesthetic, and Hail gave them just that. His style contrasted with contemporaries such as Michael Taylor, who was bringing the outdoors inside with his California style, and with John Dickinson, who married fantasy with function.

Hail's brain was a compendium of knowledge on Russian, Scandinavian and French antiques, friends said, and he had a knack for finding the best materials as well as coaxing craftsmen to turn out the finest-quality work. "He knew how to make the furniture look like it was created by the fabric, and not by people," said Craig Leavitt, a Modesto designer who worked with Hail in the late 1960s. "The fabric was molded into shapes, pleated, pulled and stitched so that you didn't notice that it was furniture -- you just noticed the rightness of the material. He was the genius I looked up to."

One of the most celebrated estates in the San Francisco area is Guigne Court, a secluded mansion on 47 acres in Hillsborough near the border of the city of San Mateo. The house was built in 1918 (or some sources say 1913) as a wedding present for Christian de Guigne, 2nd, and his bride from the groom's father. The first Christian de Guigne, who founded what became the Leslie Salt Company (the world's largest solar evaporation plant for the production of salt) and the Stauffer Chemical Company (which manufactured herbicides for corn and rice), had married the eldest daughter of millionaire Gold Rush banker John Parrott in 1879, starting the dynasty. The residence was redecorated by Anthony Hail in 1965 when it was the house of Christian de Guigne, 3rd, and his wife Eleanor, who married in 1935. Often referred to as Madame de Guigne, she was a regular customer in the top couture houses in Paris and was elected to the Fashion Hall of Fame in 1981. On her death in 1983, Madame's archival wardrobe was bequeathed to The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

In 1968, Richard Jenrette purchased Roper House, a ca. 1838 house on Charleston’s High Battery. While not his first piece of Charleston real estate, it would be the house that he would restore and enjoy for the rest of his life. He later wrote that it was his purchase of Roper House that enhanced his “appreciation of the value and importance of historic preservation,” which in turn led him to create Classical American Homes Preservation Trust in 1993. In addition to its builders, Robert William Roper and his wife Martha Rutledge Laurens Roper, previous owners included members of the prominent Allston, Ravenel, and Siegling families, as well the modern art collector and businessman, Solomon R. Guggenheim. As part of Jenrette’s purchase agreement of Roper House, the previous owner’s widowed mother was given a life tenancy of the second floor. Jenrette and his partner William L. Thompson occupied the third floor and added a roof-top deck that offered a prime location for sunset cocktails. For the decoration of these third-floor spaces, Jenrette hired Anthony Hail, whom he had met thought a Harvard Business School classmate. In addition to Roper House, Hail also served as interior designer of the Mills House Hotel, the reconstruction of the iconic Charleston hotel led by Jenrette that opened in 1970. Jenrette later wrote that Anthony Hail, “got me out of the rut of thinking that everything had to be late-eighteenth century English Georgian.” At Hail’s suggestion, Jenrette began acquiring French mantels, 18th and 19th century Scandinavian furniture, antique Russian chandeliers, and Chinese porcelain. Surviving images of the third-floor spaces at Roper House during this era show rooms that were furnished with antique British mahogany furniture and Asian decorative arts, including a large japanned twelve-panel Coromandel screen which served as the focal point of Jenrette’s third floor sitting room.

While Roper served primarily as a weekend house, Jenrette also acquired a ca. 1840 Greek Revival townhouse in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village in 1969 to serve as his principal residence. Jenrette only occupied the first floor but enjoyed the large windows and fourteen-foot ceilings. Anthony Hail was again hired as decorator. Extant invoices and correspondence from the designer suggest that the house was furnished with an eclectic variety of décor, including bamboo chairs, a pair of standing brass lamps, a painting by the 18th century French painter Jean-Baptiste Oudry, and antique Chinese lacquer tables.

When Jenrette purchased Edgewater from author Gore Vidal in the fall of 1969, Anthony Hail was also responsible for the interiors. Images of Edgewater’s Drawing Room during this era show that the walls were painted a vibrant yellow and the space was furnished with Asian and Continental European antiques, Chippendale mirrors, marble-topped console tables, and English regency furniture.

In the fall of 1970, Jenrette moved from Greenwich Village into a circa 1858 house on East 38th Street that he purchased from publisher Cass Canfield. The three-story house had double parlors on the first floor and bedrooms on the second and third floors. A second-floor room which spanned the full width of the house served as Jenrette’s library and office. For this house, Hail created what Jenrette described as a “Louis XVI-style salon,” transforming the front parlor into a space out of the Petit Trianon with antique French furniture and works of art.

In 1915, less than a decade after the great earthquake and fire that left most of San Francisco in ashen ruins, Julia Morgan set about reimagining a surviving gingerbread Victorian at 1055 Green Street, on Russian Hill. Morgan completely transformed the house, adding a front wing with a generous living room and a stately Neoclassical façade with grand, arched windows. The residence was remodeled once again in the early 1980s, when Anthony Hail bought the place and put his own stamp on it, widening hallways, expanding rooms and opening views to take advantage of the neighborhood's access to the sky. “One of the most enchanting small apartments I know was created by Anthony Hail ten years ago in San Francisco…What was so special about this room was the utter simplicity of no color, the quality of the few pieces of furniture, and the total lack of pretentiousness. The rarity of the few decorative objects gave this almost sanctuary-like atmosphere, particularly rare at that time. It was in strict contrast to all other decoration in America then.” – David Hicks

Friends said that in person, Hail was always the consummate gentleman, with excruciatingly correct manners and impeccable attire. Hail took Gary Hutton under his wing at one holiday party in 1980, when Hutton was new in town. "The host told me the party was casual, so I showed up in a red-and-white-striped sweater and jeans, and everyone else was in a suit," Hutton recalled. "I looked like a Christmas tree, but Tony was so kind. He sat next to me and helped me all night. He knew I was mortified and did everything he could to ameliorate the situation. I will always hold a fond spot in my heart for that."

Designer Steven Volpe, who worked with Hail in the late 1980s, said appropriateness was the greatest lesson he learned from his mentor. "Everything he believed in permeated his life and his work," Volpe said. "He was an evolved, sophisticated man. I treasure all I learned from him."

Hail also played another role for his clients, as was typical of interior designers in decades gone by, as an arbiter of their personal style, whether fashion or entertaining. "He was part of a generation that was the end of an era -- the decorator as dictator and stylemaker," said Gary Hutton, a contemporary interior designer in San Francisco. "He was from the grand school, and had an understanding of grand-scale living, of how to set the stage for the lifestyles of those kinds of people. The people of money today, the Bill Gateses and the Larry Ellisons, live their lives in a different kind of way. The Social Register people, the Mrs. Astor's 400 -- that was the world that Tony Hail understood in a way that I could never begin to comprehend."

Hail died on September 26, 2006, of natural causes in San Francisco. He was 81. He was survived by his business partner and longtime partner, Charles Posey, who died in 2013. Arbiters of Style: The Collection of Anthony Hail and Charles Posey, went on October 8, 2013. There were many beautiful pieces of furniture and artwork, including a set of lamps given to Anthony Hail by decorator Billy Baldwin and the beautiful painting by Paolo Porpora above the sofa. Not to mention many pieces of Louis Vuitton luggage. Anything with an estimate under $5,000 was sold without a reserve.

My published books:

See my published books