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James Mont

Born Demetrios Pecintoglu in Istanbul in 1904, James Mont became a mid-century designer and interior decorator whose clients included both New York gangsters and Hollywood royalty. Not much is known about Mont’s early life, but it is believed that he moved to the U.S. sometime in the 1920s. He got a job at a Brooklyn electric retailer, and while there he started to work on his own lamp designs. Mont’s work caught the attention of a mobster named Frankie Yale, and the door opened for him to become a decorator for the underworld. For the rest of his life, the eccentric and charismatic Mont relished his ties and identity with the criminal element. In the early 1930s, he opened his own shop in Manhattan, which was rumored to be bankrolled by the mob. Mont’s mid-century modern designs were influenced by Art Deco and Hollywood Regency, and he also drew inspiration from 19th-century European chinoiserie in imitation of Chinese aesthetics; he was the first to use the term “Chinese Modern.” He was absolutely obsessive about his finishes, sometimes painting woods more than a dozen times before applying the lacquer. Mont worked with lacquered wood, oak, mahogany and other woods, and he designed a wide range of furnishings and furniture that includes chairs, sofas, dining tables, coffee tables, beds, dressers, nightstands, desks, lamps, chests, screens and much more. His products were sold in New York, Florida and Greece. Mont’s tumultuous life eventually led to a stint in Sing Sing, and after being released he fled to Greece to escape his creditors. There, he died in 1978. His work was, in a sense, rediscovered in the 1990s, and modern designers now draw inspiration from his bold use of colors, scales, shapes and painstaking attention to detail. Mont’s productions can command high prices in today’s market.