Woman of Substance


Private House has developed a cult following among collectors of interior design books—despite the fact that its author doesn’t even think of herself as a decorator. “I don’t really do a lot of design work. I might have had five clients in my life,” insists the antiques dealer and home furnishings designer behind L.A.’s legendary Melrose House. Still, when that list of decorating clients includes names like Geffen, Springsteen, and Winfrey, it’s safe to say you get a lot of repeat business. (One client hired Tarlow to decorate six different homes.)

The Private House was originally published by Clarkson Potter in a diminutive format that doesn’t suggest “coffee table book” so much as “bedside reading.” (“I made it small because I didn’t really feel the pictures were that great,” says the famously discriminating author.) Long out of print, the book is getting a second lease on life thanks to Rizzoli, which is reissuing it this spring, much to the author’s surprise. “When it first came out,” she confides, “nobody made a fuss over it.”

Tarlow began writing the book in the late 1990s after teaching a master class in design for architecture students at UCLA. “These students knew nothing about furniture. Barcelona chairs were all they knew about,” Tarlow laments. “So I thought I’d write this book.”

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This story appeared in the Spring 2024 issue of MILIEU.