As part of a delightful academic diversion, I have recently been researching interiors shown on film – with a focus on the Elrod House in Palm Springs, designed by John Lautner between 1966-68 for Interior Designer Arthur Elrod. This interior was used in the James Bond film Diamonds are Forever, directed by Guy Hamilton in 1971, as the site where the ‘international man of mystery’ searches for a missing magnate linked to an evil plot.
The Elrod House was famous in its own day for Lautner’s architecture as well as Elrod’s interiors. It was featured in an 11-page story for Architectural Digest in Spring 1970, when that West Coast shelter magazine was just starting its domination of the field. Interior photos by Leland Lee, along with descriptive photo captions, provide ample information about Elrod’s choices for interior furnishings and finishes, most of which are also shown as part of the house’s film cameo.
Elrod was a successful Interior Designer in Palm Springs at the time. His firm Arthur D. Elrod & Associates was growing. He had recently partnered with William C. Raiser, an interior designer from New York who had experience in commercial interiors developed during his long tenure on the East Coast with Raymond Lowey Associates. Elrod’s biographer Adèle Cygelman noted that during these years Reisner maintained an apartment in New York but spent much of his time working for Elrod in California. And it was around the time the Elrod House was completed that Arthur D. Elrod & Associates were expanding Eastward with projects in Chicago for John H. and Eunice W. Johnson, owners of Johnson Publishing Company.
I have ideas about the interior and its use in the film, but what I notice today is the currency and international reach of Elrod’s furnishing choices for his own home at the end of the 1960s. In the living room areas alone, in addition to Elrod’s own designs for soft seating upholstered by long-time collaborator Martin Brattrud, and Raiser’s designs for sculpted carpets created by Edward Fields, we see: Pierre Paulin’s Ribbon Chair, designed in 1966 for the Dutch company Artifort; Warren Platner’s 1966 Easy Chair and Ottoman designed for Knoll International; Pier Giacomo Castiglioni and Achille Castiglioni’s Arco Lamp, designed in 1962 for the Italian company FLOS; and a set of Yrjö Kukkapuro’s Ateljee 3121 Armchairs of 1963-64 for Haimi Oy, Finland. On the poolside terrace we see many Lotus Lounge Chairs, designed in 1968 by Miller Yee Fong for his family’s local furniture business. The Fong’s were Chinese American furniture designers based in Los Angeles, who ran their own company called Tropi-Cal. In 1971, a New York Times article described Tropi-Cal as having been in business for 20 years selling “high‐styled, quality rattan furniture designed in California and made in the Fongs’ Hong Kong factory.” For that moment, Elrod’s furniture tastes spanned the globe, and are still admired today.
Closer to home, Elrod’s prescient furniture selections echo items featured in New York’s Museum of Modern Art 1967 exhibition “Recent Acquisitions: Design Collection” – which ran from September 27, 1967, to January 01, 1968. A rattan chaise designed for Tropi-Cal by Danny Ho Fong, Miller Yee Fong’s father, was part of the MoMA show, as was Kukkapuro’s Ateljee 3121 Armchair. Arthur Drexler, Director of the museum’s Department of Art and Design, and curator of the exhibition, noted that the objects on display had been acquired by the museum since 1964 and were included due to their “quality and historical significance.”
It is astounding that Elrod was bringing together some of the most notable furniture designs of that moment for his celebrated dessert home. Did he visit Drexler’s New York exhibition? Or was there a common approach to high-style design that spanned the West and East Coast of America? Certainly, the location scouts for the Bond franchise saw the value of this interior for storytelling. Only one piece was added to the interior that was not part of Elrod’s original design vision – Gaetano Pesce’s 1969 UP Lounge Chair and Ottoman.
Featured Image: Elrod House living room interior in Diamonds Are Forever. Photo © Eon Productions, United Artists. Image from https://www.jamesbondlifestyle.com/product/elrod-house-palm-springs-usa
Research & Sources
Architectural Digest. (1970, Spring). Modern Palace in the Desert. Architectural Digest. 26(4): 51-61. https://archive.architecturaldigest.com/issue/19700301
Cygelman, A. (2019). Arthur Elrod: Desert Modern Design. Gibbs Smith.
LACMA. (2022). ‘Lotus Chair,’ Miller Yee Fong, c. 1968. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. https://collections.lacma.org/node/1228863
Luckel, M. (2020, February 20). The Palm Springs Masterpiece You Need to Revisit for Modernism Week. Architectural Digest – Adpro. https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/the-palm-springs-masterpiece-you-need-to-revisit-during-modernism-week
Museum of Modern Art. (1967). Recent Acquisitions: Design Collection. September 27, 1967-January 1, 1968. Museum of Modern Art, New York. https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/2606
Reif, R. (1971, March 5). Designed in U.S., Made in Hong Kong. New York Times. P.20 https://www.nytimes.com/1971/03/05/archives/designed-in-us-made-in-hong-kong.html