Michael Taylor (1927 – 1986) – “California Look” ๐ŸŒž

Michael Taylor american interior designer standing at table
Michael Taylor american interior designer standing at table

Michael Taylor (1927 – 1986) was an American interior and furniture designer. He was known for the “California Style” and made his homes showplaces of the unexpected.

What is the California Style?

What Taylor attempted with the California interior design style is a casual style that mixes Mediterranean colours with natural materials to make rooms light, airy, and welcoming. It grew out of the California Bungalow or American Craftsman style and the Spanish Colonial Revival style, both popular on the West Coast. Both styles need and have things in common, like many windows, glass doors, and well-kept gardens. The inside of California-style homes show how relaxing and enjoyable it is to be filled with natural light. Wooden beams, arches, and more arches are common, as are tiling and terracotta, with a lot of detail.

Early Years

Taylor 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 after his discharge. He worked for other designers and department stores before partnering with designer Francis Mihailoff on Post Street in San Francisco.

Bedroom interior designed by Michael Taylor.  Rosekrans House, Pacific Heights, San Francisco
Bedroom interior designed by Michael Taylor

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

“When you take things out, you must increase the size of what’s left.”

Michael Taylor

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 at 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. 

Rudolph Schaeffer School of Design

Rudolph Schaeffer School of Design was an art school founded in 1924 in San Francisco, California, best known for its courses in color and interior design. It was founded by artist Rudolph Schaeffer, who had studied in Munich and studied color theory under Ralph Johonnot. In 1951, the school moved to Telegraph Hill, and in the 1950s, Schaeffer invited Dr. Haridas Chaudhuri to give public lectures at his East-West Arts Gallery. In 1984, the school closed due to financial issues and disagreements between Schaeffer and the Board of Trustees. (Wikipedia)

After a partnership with Frances Milhailoff in San Francisco beginning in 1951, he established 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 show business, 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

Michael Taylor manhattan living room interior
Michael Taylor manhattan living room interior


Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Rudolph Schaeffer School of Design – Wikipedia. (2016, April 15). Rudolph Schaeffer School of Design – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudolph_Schaeffer_School_of_Design

Saeks, D. D. (1999). San Francisco: a certain style. Chronicle.

The California Style of Interior Design. (2022, March 14). The California Style of Interior Design. https://www.riluxa.com/en/blog/the-california-style-of-interior-design#:~:text=Also%20known%20as%20%E2%80%9CCalifornia%20Cool,light%2C%20airy%2C%20welcoming%20spaces.

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