Photographer Maynard L. Parker worked for the most influential design magazines of the 20th century. Frequently his photographs are the only surviving record of the collaborative work of the century’s best residential architects with important interior designers. His dramatically lighted images of the impeccably decorated homes of Hollywood personalities and anonymous socialites were the decorating manuals for generations of aspiring middle class readers. Empty of people, his photographs resembled movie sets with carefully arranged furniture, waiting for the owners to arrive and begin living. Parker photographed a number of Paul R. Williams’ residential projects for Architectural Digest. One of these was the Beverly Hills home of Robert J. and Fritizi Fulton, featured in the August 1939 issue of the magazine
Robert J. Fulton was an owner/manager of Raphael Glass Company of Los Angeles. Originally established by Robert Raphael, the company supplied plate glass, ornamental windows and beveled glass for many of the buildings constructed in the city’s growing downtown business district. Through his work Fulton formed relationships with many of the important industrialists of the time including Edward Libby, founder of Libby Glass Works in Ohio. (California and Californians.1930)
As a young matron with an ambitious, successful husband, Fritizi was active in philanthropic service organizations such as the Personal Services Associates and the Guild of Children’s Home Society. Her home became the backdrop for formal club teas and luncheons as well as bridal showers, intimate “afternoons” for friends and parties for debutants. Her activities were frequently mentioned in the Chatterbox column of the Los Angeles Times and her picture appeared in the pages of the Los Angeles Examiner. The Fultons were a busy couple who needed a larger home to host friends and business associates. In 1936 they contacted Paul Williams to design a new residence in Beverly Hills.
When Williams designed the Fulton home he was already recognized as a gifted designer of “quiet elegance” with an ability to synthesize different revival style elements to create something fresh and new for each client—a “unique Southern California residential architecture.” (Architectural Digest. February 2010) In the 1930s Williams’ hybrid approach to design was known as Vogue Regency. The style, made popular by English social commentator Osbert Lancaster, was “not so much a style as a decorative game . . . that obeys no rules and requires few, but boldly stated architectural features.” (Stephen Calloway. Style Traditions. 1990) The Fulton residence is an example of this approach to design.
In the Fulton home Georgian design elements are combined with other historic styles. The typical white painted bricks and the large banks of paned, angled glass windows on both sides of the entrance make a statement about the original owners—we know who we are. Parker's black and white photographs in Architectural Digest show a classic, formal interior that mixed European inspired upholstered furniture with Chinese Chippendale flourishes. Floor-to-ceiling windows light the living and dining rooms and a glass block wall, a decidedly quirky International Moderne touch, provides natural light in the library. With large soft couches and chairs the library was the only room Parker photographed that looked like "real people" might use it.
In his 1939 book on aesthetics and popular style Lancaster described the adaptibility of Vogue Regency: "To-day the more sensible of modern architects realize that the desperate attempt to find a contemporary style can only succeed if the search starts" with historic elements that can be easily adapted to the client's particular life style and not the "fatal will-o'-the-wisp of period accurancy." (Osbert Landcaster. Homes Sweet Homes. 1939)
Though he never saw the Fulton's residence Lancaster would have easily recognized its Vogue Regency style. Whatever its type, the home also illustrates an important tenet of Williams' personal aesthetic philosophy: "You can put a beautiful fireplace, a lovely credenza, first-rate antiques . . . all together and have a secondhand store. ...The rest is a question of the personality you design around." (Los Angeles Times.October 11, 1970)