New York interior designer Meg Braff said, “designers know about him, but this may be the year that everyone else gets to know his over-the-top, theatrical furniture.”
And so, it was time for me to get to know James Mont and put some examples of his work in front of you.
From the early 1930s and into the 1960s, Mont was one of the most prominent designers and decorators on the East Coast. His forte was creating dramatic Asian–inspired, but modern, furniture.
Here are forms that curl up at the corners like pagodas. Cabinet with drawers that were lined with silk velvets, leather or burled woods. Tray-topped coffee tables wore swirling ram’s-horn handles.
The result was furniture of monumental scale with lavish, flamboyant touches.
A favorite among Hollywood stars and notorious figures of the underworld, Mont’s friends and clients included show business figures, such as Lana Turner, Bob Hope and Irving Berlin.
He was the decorator of choice to crime bosses. Some of his specialties were collapsible bars (a must in the era of Prohibition) and tables and desks with secret compartments.
A colorful character, Mont enjoyed flashy cars and the company of chorus girls. He was a spendthrift and a gambler with a violent temper that, on one occasion, led to his serving a prison term for assault.
Today his work has been rediscovered by designers who favor the lavish and exotic. Mont, the villain-aesthete, would be pleased.