May 25 – Happy Birthday Isabelle Orante

Former home of the Orante’s

They were one of Amsterdam’s coolest couples. He was the artist, a painter and sculptor who also owned Matthew’s, a different kind of men’s clothing store on Main Street in Amsterdam’s downtown. She ran an interior decorating company called Eljoor’s from a second floor office at that same location. They were the Orante’s, Isabelle and Matthew and if you were fortunate enough to have known either or both of them, you will never forget them.

It is Isabelle who celebrated her birthday on today’s date. Back in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s she was the go-to decorator for Amsterdam businesses- and upscale homes. She had the absolute perfect look for the job too.

Born in New York City, she carried herself like a runway model and usually dressed like one as well. I remember during my bartending days at Ralph’s on Market Street, her and Matthew would very occasionally stop in on a Friday evening if the right band was performing. They’d sit in a corner booth and he would always wait on her like she was royalty and he loved doing it. They were one of the best dancing couples in the City at the time and I’ll never forget how the entire crowd at Ralphs’ would gawk at the two of them perform what seemed like choreographed routines on the lounge’s ten foot square parquet dance floor.

Early on in her career as an Amsterdam interior decorator, Isabelle had partnered with Elsie Curran and John Wolfe. She and Wolfe then established Eljoor’s as a partnership and when Wolfe left the business, Isabelle became the sole proprietor. Her and Matt ended up purchasing several Amsterdam properties and converting them into stylish apartment buildings.

The Orante’s own apartment was as cool as they were. It was in the refurbished former headquarter building of the City’s old telephone company at 40 Division Street. The place served as  an ongoing real-world exhibition of Isabelle’s decorating skill and Matthew’s artistic talents.

As you might imagine, to function even semi-regularly as an interior design consultant in this town required one to be flexible. Isabel worked her magic on everything from mansions to a bowling alley during her heyday. Her company vehicle was a gray Cadillac convertible and her assistant was usually Matthew himself. I only wish the two of them had been in their prime when the hit design show Trading Spaces debuted on TLC in 2000 because the Orante’s had the talents, personalities and intriguing eccentricities to become television stars.

Isabelle passed away in 2011 at the age of 85, three years after Matthew died.


One thought on “May 25 – Happy Birthday Isabelle Orante

  1. Mike it’s so enjoyable reading your posts about Amsterdam. They bring back a lot of fond memories. Please give my regards to your brother Matt and Gerry also.


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