King of Pop, Prince of Interior Design?

Irwin Weiner ASID -- Michael Jackson, King of Pop, dead at 50. The headlines are unbelievable, and fans worldwide mourn the passing of a musical genius and astounding entertainer. While the star's personal life was shrouded in mystery and controversy, and only a few painful interviews were given to the press, it's possible for us to piece a better picture of his personality through his choice of furnishings, decorative objects, art, and interior design.

Auction items from the Neverland Ranch give us a glimpse into Michael Jackson's decorating taste:


Billy Baldwin, the famous interior designer, once said something that I think applies well to Michael Jackson: "I don't think anyone has a right to possess anything he doesn't love -- art or anything else." Michael Jackson's prodigious spending appetite certainly seems to have been driven by a passion and love for everything he bought. His eclectic collections of art, fine furniture, museum pieces like the Elephant Man skeleton, folk art, and children's games and toys reflects a complicated personality. We see both elegance and sophistication blending with child-like innocence and wonderment, an unusual combination but one that seemed fueled by a desire to create an environment that the singer/entertainer could feel comfortable in and treat as a personal sanctuary. I remember a TV interviewer being led by Mr. Jackson to a Las Vegas furnishings store, picking out practically everything in the store, from oil paintings of Apollo to marble and gold urns (the latter costing over $250,000 apiece, and he bought many).


Jackson's desire to decorate is as much a passionate appetite as was his performing. A recent case in point was his reportedly deposited one million pounds to rent a 28-bedroom home in London (see photo below) to live during his eight-month stay and string of concerts at the O2 Arena. He chose the posh Foxbury Manor in southeast London, and it boasted nearly 30 bedrooms, an underground theater, a swimming pool, and a private lake and wood. Not content to take things "as is," he reportedly asked for brightly colored wallpaper to be added to the existing decor and he was in the process of picking out personal artwork, statues, and ornaments that he wanted to surround himself with. In addition to his personal choices for furnishings, the London Guardian reported that he planned to hire an interior decorator to arrange the entire house "according to his taste."

All that expense and effort for eight months of his life, modifying a temporary home he would never own. This dramatically underscores Michael Jackson's need to surround himself with luxury and a sense of his own personal sanctuary. While he was busy entertaining audiences, he had a public life that was on stage for all to see. But after the final song, he retreated to his own inner sanctum, not unlike anyone else who loves their home enough to put passion into their personal decorating. Jackson's homes truly reflected his personal interests, tastes, and sense of style and comfort. While these don't reflect my taste and style sense, I respect that this entertainer had a strong sense of self and passionately connected with what he liked and was comfortable with. That's a big part of what design is all about.

And as Billy Baldwin himself would have observed, "The wilder the idea, the newer, the farther out, the more it demands that you know why you want it. If you fall in love with something, that's all that matters." RIP, King of Pop, Prince of Interior Design.