Michael Taylor American Interior Designer – The “California Look”

Michael Taylor was an American interior and furniture designer. He was known for the “California Style” and made his homes showplaces of the unexpected.

He was born in Santa Rosa, California. He was active in San Francisco. He dropped out of High School and joined the Navy, Taylor attended design schools and after his discharge. He worked for other designers and department stores before entering into a partnership with designer Francis Mihailoff on Post Street in San Francisco.

Taylor received numerous honours, including the Designer of Distinction award in 1984 from the American Society of Interior Designers.

However, he was known to that segment of the public that could afford him as a melder of traditional and contemporary in settings where huge boulders became fireplaces, and Saguaro cacti might serve as room dividers.


He studied Rudolf Schaeffer School of Interior Design, San Francisco. Taylor frequently used logs and wicker in his furniture designs for his beige-on-beige interiors, often incorporating natural stone. 

After a partnership with Frances Milhailoff in San Francisco beginning in 1951, he set up his practice in 1956 with initial clients including Maryon Lewis and her father, Ralph Davies. Syrie Maugham and Frances Elkins influenced his early interiors. Some of his clients were people in showbusiness, including Maryon Lewis, Gorham and Diana Knowles, Nan Kempner, Douglas S. Cramer, Steve Martin, Donald Bren, Martha Hyer, and Hal Wallis. 


Projects included Norton Simon’s and Jennifer Jones’s Malibu house, the Bernard Maybeck-designed house of John and Frances Bowes, architect John Lautner’s Malibu house, and the Arizona villa of Jimmy Wilson. Typical Taylor designs included ball-shaped pillows (derived from ancient China), and he has been credited with rediscovering the lamps and furniture of Diego Giacometti. He was frequently copied. His retail shop was on Sutter Street, San Francisco. 

Selection of Works

The Kempner dining room. Photo by Derry Moore for Architectural Digest.

The Manhattan living room of Nan and Thomas Kempner as it appeared in the mid 1980s. Photo by Derry Moore for Architectural Digest.

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