Looking for Valerian Rybar


Some of you may remember that while reading Empress Bianca, the alleged roman à clef about international socialite and philanthropist Lily Safra, I became obsessed with finding out who the real-life version of Bianca's decorator, Valerian Rybar, was. (Click here and here to revisit Safra style.)

Well, apparently Valerian Rybar was the real Valerian Rybar, and according to the NY Times, he was the world's most expensive decorator, boasting a roster that included Rothschilds and Greek shipping magnates.


My dreams of seeing veritable Rybar rooms were soon realized when I espied the 1980s tome Decorating for Celebrities by Paige Rense on a friend's bookshelf. Lo and behold, an in depth interview with Mr. Rybar in which he muses on his craft:


The difference between a decorator and a designer: "A decorator should have a taste for selection; a designer should have a talent for creation."

If you are decorating your own home but can't do everything at once, make a master plan and then execute it. "Don't buy something because you love the way it looks whenever you happen to see it. Be very sure it fits into your total concept."


Rybar has many wise words, although I would beg to differ with his statement that "today, for a room of quality, you have to spend at least thirty thousand dollars. And that does not, of course, include art and antiques." Instead, I would suggest, you could spend all the money in the world and still not achieve the results that a good eye and a spark of imagination can create.

Photos: top, #3 by Pascal Hinous; #4 by Nathaniel Lieberman