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Design Archives; Melanie Kahane Interview


Design Archiving Project: Melanie Kahane DROP FRAME 1999 MAPC Preservation master

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Design Archives
Melanie Kahane Interview
Series Description

Series of original interviews. Series release date: 1981

Program Description

180-minute interview on three videocassettes.

Tape 1 (58:00): Childhood in Sioux Falls, S.D.; imaginative abilities of children; her children’s books on design (There’s a Decorator in Your Dollhouse); talent vs. environment and their influence on children’s attitudes toward design; her father’s influence; education at Parsons School of Design in New York; difficulties in finding jobs after graduation in the Depression; studies in Paris and travels in Europe; decision to go into interior decorating; starting her own business; development of control system for her business; importance of cost and budgets in design field; her knowledge of color; differences in trends in fashion and interior design; effects of history on design (Industrial Revolution, Victorian era, WWI) and effects catastrophic events have on design.

Tape 2 (59:00): Need for designers/architects to know the human body; need for designers to work in difficult situations; economy of space due to economics; argues there is no distinction between the designer and decorator; her Black and White in Pumpkin Room design of the late 1940’s -- inspirations for it and its impact; importance of gaining publicity for one’s designs; origins of her Red Hot Stove design and its impact on her becoming known for kitchen and cabinet design; her product designs for Westinghouse, especially colored bulbs for home use, and RCA; role of computers in design; life with her husband; their travels in Russia, Portugal, and England.

Tape 3 (58:45): Importance for designers to be able to completely visualize projects before they begin; changes in business of design over the years; education of the consumer in design matters; her designs for the Schubert Theater in Boston; her restoration designs for rooms at the Waldorf in New York; her determination of fees for jobs; favorite and least favorite types of jobs; the need for designers to be involved in all aspects of the design business; interests in urban renewal; her designs for cabinets used in the space shuttle; value of NASA research in everyday life; the upbringing of her daughter; the need for young designers to struggle and try many experiences to become well-rounded; the need for design schools to teach business elements; her input in Harry Siegel's book A Guide to Business Principles and Practices for Interior Designers; the need for design firms to become larger with a wide range of specialized workers, but the prevention of its happening due to ego.



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Industrial designers
Interior architecture
Unedited footage
Interior decoration
Interior decorators
Kahane, Melanie (Interviewee)
Chicago: “Design Archives; Melanie Kahane Interview,” 05/13/1981, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed January 23, 2019, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_F959DABC14FA4AF0BB4E61B4FE66ED7D.
MLA: “Design Archives; Melanie Kahane Interview.” 05/13/1981. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. January 23, 2019. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_F959DABC14FA4AF0BB4E61B4FE66ED7D>.
APA: Design Archives; Melanie Kahane Interview. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_F959DABC14FA4AF0BB4E61B4FE66ED7D
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