“Donald Deskey Associates rebuild medieval Venice and the Eastern trade routes for the Marco Polo Club, caravanserai for corporate Kublai Khans,” proclaimed Interiors magazine, referring to the inns that supported traders along the fabled Silk Road.  The club opened at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel in 1960 and was “dedicated to gentlemen who have discovered the culture and pleasures of world travel and who seek to perpetuate friendships and alliances with men of similar interests.”  Numerous artists and designers contributed to the decor, which included a mural by Edward Miller depicting the routes of Marco Polo’s explorations and iridescent chandeliers of handblown glass by Paolo Venini (Fig. 1). The trade magazine Hotel Bulletin described it as an excellent example of “the ‘total design’ services offered by many of the nation’s top decorating firms”—with everything from original artworks to glassware and matchbooks selected or commissioned by Donald Deskey Associates. 
Guests entered the three-level space at the street level, greeted by a bronze reproduction of the famed Lion of Saint Mark, symbol of the city of Venice. Behind a rough-hewn oak door, they would find the cocktail lounge, where one entire wall was swathed in custom Dorothy Liebes draperies in scarlet red heavily striped with metallic gold (Fig. 2). The drapes served as a dramatic counterpoint to a large abstract sculpture by Edward Chavez in bronze, copper, and colored glass in shades of turquoise, orange, and magenta, set in a reflecting pool of deep-aqua rippled-glass blocks illuminated from below to create “a patter of light and shadow” against “an effective back wall of white and neutral colored Italian marble chips.”  Liebes’s drapery, with its extensive use of gold Lurex yarns in shimmering bands, further amplified the sparkling effect (Fig. 3).
Two steps down, guests would find a standing bar and café; the lowest and largest level served as the dining room. The focal point of the dining room was a “cathedral wall”—a bank of glazed ceramic arches inspired by the Doge’s Palace on Venice’s Grand Canal. Spanning twenty-seven feet and canted at a thirty-degree angle, the two courses of arches were staggered to allow the diffuse transmission of light while screening the diners from view (Fig. 4).
A palette of rich jewel-like tones was used throughout, featuring “Persian blue, Tibetan magenta, Mandarin orange, and Doge’s Palace purple.”  Custom V’Soske carpets were in shades of blue and purple; chairs were upholstered in purple-striped Thaibok silks, Liebes’s power-loomed nylon fabrics in red and magenta, and fabrics by Jack Lenor Larsen. The dining room featured six enormous Venini chandeliers in shades of mauve and topaz, and drapes in “Titian topaz-gold, Veronese amethyst-red, [and] Tiepolo garnet-purple” by L. Anton Maix. 
The Club’s promotional brochure described the venue as a place for “leaders in business, the professions and arts to meet.”  Although Liebes herself certainly met those qualifications, she would have been barred entry until four-thirty, after which time “escorted women” were permitted. Not surprisingly, Liebes was more frequently spotted at the Plaza’s Persian Room.
 “Samarkand at the Waldorf,” Interiors (September 1960).
 Marco Polo Club promotional brochure, 1960. Donald Deskey Archive, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.
 “The Waldorf’s Beautiful New Marco Polo Club,” Hotel Bulletin (November 1960).
 “New Marco Polo Club in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel,” Hotel Gazette (August 13, 1960), 11.
 “Notes on the Marco Polo Club at the Waldorf Astoria,” press release issued by Donald Deskey Associates, 1960. Donald Deskey Archive, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, Gift of Donald Deskey, 1975-11-77.
 Marco Polo Club promotional brochure, 1960. Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, Gift of Donald Deskey, 1975-11-77.