Charles J. McManus Jr., 89, a bon vivant and interior designer known for his love of antique art, died of respiratory failure Sunday, Dec. 4, in his Center City home.

Born in Philadelphia, Mr. McManus was educated at the Canterbury School, a Catholic boarding school in New Milford, Conn.

He later attended the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where his education was interrupted by three years of service in the Coast Guard during World War II.

After college, Mr. McManus pursued a career in interior design, following his love of art and antiques.

His assignments included work at the Philadelphia Club and the Racquet Club of Philadelphia. Mr. McManus served as president of the Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Society of Interior Designers.

But it was in the renovation of the former French consulate on Spruce Street in Center City where Mr. McManus showed the depths of his passion.

He bought the property from the French government and used it as a platform to display his collection of antiques, many of which he donated to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Mr. McManus' attention to detail was so great, his son Charles K. McManus recalled, that he insisted on using period paint when redecorating the house.

Charles K. McManus noted that his father frequently used the four-story structure to host parties, which were written about in the society pages of The Inquirer.

"He cared about people who were interesting and had stories to tell," McManus said, noting that his father's wry sense of humor sometimes caught friends off guard.

Mr. McManus would, for instance, leave statues of naked people for his guests to find in the bathroom.

His love of travel inspired Mr. McManus to buy an old plantation in Antigua in the early 1960s.

Though "I've never seen him in blue jeans in my life," Mr. McManus' son said, he recalled that his father would let his hair down on the plantation and "immerse himself in the atmosphere of the place he was at."

The plantation was to have been the site of the honeymoon of Anthony Armstrong-Jones and Princess Margaret, the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II, according to an obituary written by Mr. McManus' son.

But another place was chosen because British security suspected the plantation site had been compromised.

Mr. McManus' love for the exotic stretched to unusual animals, and he kept kinkajous, nocturnal rain forest mammals sometimes mistaken for monkeys, in his Spruce Street property.

In his later years, Mr. McManus maintained a home in Symphony House, as well as a condominium in Tel Aviv.

In addition to his son Charles K., he is survived by his wife, Esther Press; another son, B. Craig; stepchildren Talya and Daniel Press; three grandsons; and a great-grandson.

A former wife, Nancy Ambler, also survives.

Mr. McManus was preceded in death by his first and second wives, Ann Heberton and Norma Barton.

A memorial service was set for 11 a.m. Friday, Dec. 9, at the Restaurant School, 4207 Walnut St. Interment will be in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Cheltenham.

Contact staff writer Anthony Campisi at 215-854-5015, acampisi@phillynews.com, or @campisia on Twitter.