Emanuel “Manny” Feingold, interior decorator, dies at 93
BY MAUREEN O’DONNELL Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org December 21, 2012 9:34PM
Emanuel "Manny" Feingold
Updated: December 22, 2012 7:54PM
He came to America as a toddler from Lithuania and lost both his parents within a decade, yet he wound up in a house created by a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright, filled with beautiful objects from around the world.
Emanuel “Manny” Feingold became a sought-after interior decorator who was so popular and long-lived that he sometimes decorated homes for three generations of the same family.
Mr. Feingold, 93, died Thursday at Highland Park Hospital.
His nieces used to love watching him empty suitcases after trips. Antiques, Orientalia and objets d’art would spill forth, giving the children an astral visit to the Silk Road or a Middle Eastern bazaar. He incorporated the treasures into his designs.
“He would be coming from, like, San Francisco or New York or England, and he would put the suitcase on his couch,” said one niece, Ellena Lieberman. Inside was “something very beautiful for a child in Chicago, from foreign places; and they were always magnificent and unusually colored . . . he would have beautiful fabrics and lanterns.”
“He came back with artifacts that are astonishing,” said another niece, Roni Reisler. “Small paintings; ivory boxes; silver letter openers.”
Mr. Feingold’s North Shore home was a Prairie School gem that he happily tweaked until he died, to maximize its beauty and balance. Sculpture and artifacts were displayed with jewelbox drama, set in alcoves that were backlit and lined with silk.
The home — filigreed with exotic woods and glass that bring the outdoors in — was designed by Arthur Dennis Stevens, who began studying with Wright when he was only 17.
“We didn’t really face the house to the street. Everyone wants a big picture window facing the street. We faced the beauty of the land. We had the garage in the front,” Stevens said. “You walk through the house, and then you saw the beautiful property.”
“There was no detail too small for him,” Stevens added. “We spent weeks designing his garden shed. We worked on that building — you can’t call it a shed. It’s really part of the house.”
Mr. Feingold was born in Vilkomir, Lithuania. Russian Bolshevik invasions and anti-Semitism propelled the family’s immigration to Chicago, where his uncles operated Supreme Tannery.
His parents died when he was 12 but the family of four children, from 12 to 20, managed to keep their house, continue their educations, and stay together.
After attending Von Steuben High School, Mr. Feingold served as a supply manager in the Army in World War II. His station was Iran, which introduced him to beautiful desert vistas, gardens, cities and artifacts that influenced his aesthetic.
Back in Chicago, the GI Bill enabled Mr. Feingold to study at Northwestern University. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business and a master’s in art history and design, his nieces said. He also studied at the School of the Art Institute.
In 1950, he opened Emanuel Feingold Interiors near Clark and Wilson. It was his base of operations until the late 1990s, when he began working from home.
“He started with relatives and it grew. To our knowledge he never actually advertised,” said Roni Reisler. “One family in Bloomfield Hills [Mich.], he did [decorating for] three generations. He did the grandmother, the daughter and the granddaughter.”
He loved contemporary design, including the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who alchemized Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts; and the sleek modernity of furniture designer Edward Wormley.
In the 1950s, Mr. Feingold, a member of the American Institute of Decorators, wrote guest columns in the Chicago Sun-Times, advising readers on paint, proportion and furniture.
He designed the Quadrille restaurant in the old Belden-Stratford Hotel; the Villa Sweden restaurant (now the site of Ann Sather’s at 5207 N. Clark); and interiors for homes on the North Shore and Lake Shore Drive, and Boston and Boca Raton. He’d even select linens and silverware, if the clients needed help.
A morning person, he often arose at 5 a.m. to work on his plans.
“You have to embark on a career that you really love. If not, you can’t be happy,” he said in a biographical video produced by Retrospection Media that is posted on YouTube. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEmHR3qlRAw)
He treated his customers with integrity and kindness, his nieces said. “To care for [clients], I don’t think that makes you the best businessman,” he said on the video, “but that does make you the happiest person.”
“This man loved his profession and everyone,” said landscape architect Stephen Christy, who nurtured the natural woodlands around Mr. Feingold’s home. “Never a complaint; never a look back.”
He also is survived by another niece, Rona Millman, and a nephew, Michael Feingold. Services are planned at 10 a.m. Dec. 26 at Chicago Jewish Funerals, 195 N. Buffalo Grove Rd. in Buffalo Grove. Burial is at Shalom Memorial Park, 1700 W. Rand Rd., Arlington Heights.