Bloomingdale’s Barbara D’Arcy Dead at 84

The gifted interior designer worked for the retailer for more than four decades.

Barbara D’Arcy White, a gifted interior designer who worked for Bloomingdale’s for more than four decades, died May 10 at Southampton Hospital in Southampton, N.Y., after a short illness.

This story first appeared in the May 18, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

D’Arcy White, 84, whose model rooms for the store became the stuff of legend, was hired by Marvin Traub, Bloomingdale’s former chairman, as a “very young unknown” in 1953, Traub said Thursday. “I became responsible for the furniture floor in the early Fifties and was anxious to develop product and a fashion reputation.” He said under D’Arcy White’s direction, the store created innovative, colorful model rooms including the now-famous Cave Room, made of wood and chicken wire that was sprayed with polyurethane foam, as well as an all-cardboard room she designed with help from architect Frank Gehry.

“She had a great eye for picking furniture,” Traub said, “and thanks to her, the Bloomingdale’s name and reputation grew. Her work was unique and made us like no other store. She was also the soul of our country promotions.”

She joined the store to head furniture design and presentation and in 1973, was promoted to head of store design and visual display. In 1975, she was named a vice president.

D’Arcy White is survived by her husband of 46 years, Kirk White, an interior designer and architect. He recalled that while working at W.J. Sloan department store in New York City as head of its decorating department, White visited the other stores in the city to check out the competition. “I went to Macy’s and B. Altman and reported back. They all had the same wallpaper and Grand Rapids furniture. Then I went to Bloomingdale’s. I came back and told my boss, ‘There’s some woman up there who is doing furniture that should be in museums. We’re out of our league with them, we’ll never catch up.’”

He said not long after, the two met at a “fabulous cocktail party. She had no idea who I was, but she saw me and said, ‘That’s for me.’ It was a chance meeting that kept going and going and culminated in a beautiful marriage.”

Visitation will be from 2 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday at the Frank E. Campbell funeral home at 1076 Madison Avenue in New York City. The funeral will be at 1:30 p.m. on Monday at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer at 869 Lexington Avenue on 66th Street in New York.