I used to have my own interior-design business, and every year I'd do a few big buying trips. In the '70s I went to Italy and visited the workshop of a fabulous wood carver. I knew I wanted him to make me something, and since I love ostriches, I came up with the crazy idea of having a life-size one carved out of this beautiful bleached wood.
Then I thought, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if it was a bar too?" So I designed the wing on a hinge, which allows you to open the ostrich and fill the belly with booze.
We ended up producing six in total. I sold four of them to clients—one went to the mayor of Dallas, another to a la-di-da hotel. But I kept two for myself that I named Gussy and Gustavo.
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Gustavo lives in the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass., and Gussy lives with me in Palm Beach. My apartment there is a little cuckoo, so she fits right in, especially with Kermit the Frog on her back. (Kermit tipples, you know, and now he's half crocked because of the bar.) I love Gussy to pieces, mainly because she's attractive and useful, but she also puts up with both Kermit and me. What more can I ask for?
—As told to Jennifer Ferrise
Apfel's book Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon is out on March 6.
For more stories like this, pick up the March issue of InStyle Magazine, available on newsstands and for digital download now.