Wednesday, April 27, 2011

David Who?

Over the last decade or so interior design has never been more popular! Countless magazines and television shows showcase what we can do to our humble abodes to make them worthy of any magazine shoot. Celebrity interior designers are a dime a dozen. However to me there is only one designer who is king, with a couple of others who are only mere consorts. And this one really did have a royal connection, married to the Duke of Edinburgh’s first cousin. And of course we are all familiar with his daughter India, who was also an attendant at the wedding of Prince Charles and the Lady Diana Spencer.

David Nightingale Hicks the superstar interior decorator and designer, famous for his employment of bold, shockingly vibrant colours, for mixing antique and modern furnishings and contemporary art for his famous clientele had all the Savoir Faire in the world. With a middle name such as Nightingale one would have to! Also married to Lady Pamela Mountbatten the younger daughter of the 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma and cousin of the Duke of Edinburgh the die was set to become the interior decorator by which all others are judged. His relentlessly organized, color-clashing home interiors were the acme of jet-set chic in the 1960's.

Known for his love of graphic color combinations as well as a temperament that veered between disarming charm and apoplectic rage, he moved through the circles of the rich and famous with aplomb.

His career as designer-decorator was launched to media-acclaim in 1954 when the British magazine House & Garden featured the London house he decorated, for his mother, and himself when at the time he was drawing cereal boxes for an advertising firm.
With Peter Evans a restaurateur he initiated a sparkling explosion of drama, colour and excitement in London by designing, building and decorating the Peter Evans Eating Houses, a restaurant chain in London's 'hot' spots of King's Road, Chelsea, Kensington Church Street, and Soho. The style epitomized the Swinging Sixties of London.

Peter Evans: "Hicks was without a doubt a genius. He would walk into the most shambolic of spaces that I had decided would be a restaurant, a pub or a nightclub and, lighting up a cigarette, would be out of the place within ten minutes, having decided what atmosphere it would generate because of what it would look like. He always got it spot on."

David Hicks' heady combination of bold antiques and modern furniture set off by abstract paintings, often best deployed within an envelope of cool Georgian architecture, was the last word among movers and shakers of the 1960's, like the beauty products tycoon Vidal Sassoon. For the American cosmetics diva Helena Rubenstein, he designed an infamous living room of purple tweed walls and Victorian furniture upholstered in magenta leather.

Royal commissions also came through his family connections and he made carpets for Windsor Castle and decorated the Prince of Wales's first apartment at Buckingham Palace.
If Hicks could not find a particular fabric, carpet or wallpaper he started designing his own. This and his hyper-dynamic colour sense formed the basis of a style which is much admired and copied.
In the 70's and 80's David Hicks shops opened in fifteen countries around the world. He designed, for example, guestrooms at the Okura Hotel in Tokyo and the yacht of the King of Saudi Arabia. It is said that if he couldn't find something he designed and made it.

Typically, and eccentrically, David Hicks even designed his own coffin, in which he 'lay in state', according to his precise instructions, in the ground-floor room of his gothic garden pavilion.

''He killed every flower in his soul,'' said Min Hogg, editor of the trend-setting British magazine The World of Interiors, referring to the designer's hatred of chintz. ''His was a rigorous, very tailored look. So much of it was about control. There wasn't a wrinkle or crease anywhere.''

''My greatest contribution as an interior designer has been to show people how to use bold color mixtures, how to use patterned carpets, how to light rooms and how to mix old with new,'' he wrote in ''David Hicks on Living -- with Taste'' (1968), one of nine practical design books bearing his byline.


  1. I think I may have a new hero; he practically was the Emilio Pucci of his set

    Have you heard of Christopher Gibbs or David Mlinaric, who moved amongst similar circles, despite being more involved with the rock'n'roll cognoscenti during their 1960s decorating careers?

    Best as always,


  2. He would have loved our living room.

  3. Amazing interior decoration..I love it..he was truly a genious..btw haha if you plan to fight me..get ready for a fierce round..cause that wishlist is mine! xD

    The Black Label

  4. David Hicks was a genius with incredible taste and originality. Except for the few dark and moody rooms, I could live in any of these. The rooms have a crisp modernism that is elegant and easy.

    I have all of his books and refer to them often. Any of his furniture selections would look just as good today, 4+ decades later.

    In his later life, he devoted himself to his private gardens, showing a wonderful sense of garden design. I think that gardening, that quinessentially English pursuit, was his first love.

    I have to admit, I didn't object to his snobbery. He simply couldn't tolerate bad design, and his statements were always right. And still are!

  5. but could carlton varney beat him up?

  6. Ah yes....I had a few old AD's purloined from a doctor's office that I used to pour over as a kid...reading that name and dreaming.

  7. Hello David:
    What a superb post. We could not agree more. There was a man with intelligence, flair, originality and a very real and genuine talent for design. He was, as his interiors, iconic and is, in our view, without a comparable successor.

    As you may know, his garden in Oxfordshire, was/is a triumph of design.

    Of passing interest, my mother, who knew Pamela Mountbatten, attended their wedding.

  8. Very thoughtful & fabulous post, David!
    I also adore his daughter, India Hicks.
    She also has great style like her daddy!


  9. ===============================================

    Interior design is very important to me too ! ^^
    I like it to be VERYYYYY modern and simple.
    ( quite the contrary of my garments ' choices...)

    Have a super thursday Super David !

  10. A brilliant designer and father of 3 gorgeous and talented children...truly he was gifted with special DNA! An amazing and timeless resource of inspriration for all of who are design obsessed.

  11. I've been an admirer of David Hicks ever since I bought his great book, "David Hicks; Living with Design." There's a newer book out that's essentially a retrospective of his whole life, "David Hicks: A Life of Design."

    He was of course a great and inspiring designer. What I noticed in the last book is that he was also an accomplished painter and graphic designer. In the aforementioned book, pages from his own notebooks and scrapbooks are included, and they give another dimension to his life and work.

  12. shambolic is my new word! I don't think Carlton could beat him up...the rage thing was apparently a big issue. I can imagine flying obelisks!! I've read that he and his daughter had a tumultuous relationship.

  13. You've captured the broad reach that was
    David Hicks - quite a comprehensive crash course!
    A good reminder to pull out my well worn
    "Living With Design" and refresh my view -


  14. i think my future abode is going to be tacky as star wars posters everywhere


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