Tabulous Tastemaker: Iris Apfel

August 29, 2014

By Tab Byrum

Today we are wishing a very Happy Birthday to and celebrating the style and life of Iris Apfel.  Apfel has called herself a “geriatric starlet” and at 93 shows no signs of slowing down in her everyday life or as a trendsetter and fashion icon.


Apfel was born Iris Barrel in Astoria, Queens, New York in 1921.  She was the only child of her father Samuel and mother Sadye, her father was a decorator and she was exposed to fashion early since her mother ran a clothing boutique.

 As a young woman Iris went to art school and also studied art history, she worked for Women’s Wear Daily and interior designer Elinor Johnson.  In 1948 she married Carl Apfel and together in 1950 the two launched the successful textile firm Old World Weavers and ran it until retiring in 1992.  Over the years Iris Apfel has helped with many restoration projects including the White House during the tenure of 9 different Presidents.


 In 2012 at the age of 90 Apfel was a visiting professor at The University of Texas in Austin and continues today to lecture and consult on style and fashion.


Apfel’s theory on style is simple:
 ‘I can’t tell people how to have style. No amount of money can buy you style. It’s just instinctive.’You can’t try to be somebody you’re not; that’s not style.
If someone says, “Buy this, you’ll be stylish,” you won’t be stylish because you won’t be you. You have to learn who you are first and that’s painful.’


In 2005 Apfel was approached by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, they wanted her to loan them clothing and jewelry to put together an exhibit for the Costume Institute, she did and BAM, the show was a huge success and Iris went from being a style eccentric to an icon.  She laughs at her fame gained late in life saying that she is still the same person she’s always been.


Her home is decorated much like she wears clothes, in layers and lots of color.  I’m sure her style of decor isn’t for everyone, but it certainly works for Iris Apfel.







 I read an article where she said her husband told her that they didn’t have room for anything else in their home from the Paris Flea Markets, so her solution was to stop buying furniture and start buying jewelry, you’ve gotta love that thinking.iris_15



Here’s to Iris Apfel, a one of a kind woman with extraordinary tastes and style.


Interior Images courtesy of Architectural Digest

All other images courtesy of Pinterest

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