“CELEBRITY HOARDER”: TESSA KENNEDY & CHRISTIE’S



 
Third time lucky. In the last few weeks, A-Gent of Style is delighted to have collaborated with Christie’s on another of their ‘Interiors’ sales (some of you might remember the Michael Inchbald sale and two weeks ago Les Trois Garçons‘).
On saturday morning, Charlotte Young, Christie’s Specialist responsible for today’s collection on the blog, gave A-Gent a preview and private tour of a new exhibition at Christie’s South Kensington celebrating the impressive and eclectic treasure trove of objets amassed by legendary interior designer Tessa Kennedy. The 128 lots will go under the hammer tomorrow Tuesday 18 March at 10 a.m with a low estimate of £153,400 and the most expensive item being the pair of brass mounted mahogany pedestal cabinets belonging to her close friend ballet icon Rudolf Nureyev going for £8000-12,000 (lot 40).

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Tessa Kennedy is an international award-winning interior designer who for the last 50 years has discreetly created interiors with a sense of grandeur and a hint of theatre for an impressive list of elite clients. These include Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, George Harrison, Sam Spiegel, Michael Winner, Pierce Brosnan,
the Saudi Royal family and HM King Hussein of Jordan, as well as significant commercial commissions for De Beers and world-renowned hotels such as Claridges and The Berkeley. She is perhaps best known by the public for designing
the Rivoli Bar at the Ritz which was re-instated in 2001 and for which she was awarded Designer of the Year. In acknowledgment of her work she was made a Fellow of the International Interior Design Association.

Kennedy is the first to admit that interior design was not a career she would have imagined herself pursuing as a young debutante in 1957, despite an artistic ability and an early love of Brighton Pavilion. It was a time when women were not expected to have careers and due to her considerably privileged background as the daughter of Geoffrey Kennedy and Daska Ivanovic, niece to the shipping magnate
Vane Ivanovic, Tessa was expected to marry well and bring up a family, so she was sent to finishing school in Switzerland.


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Swept off her feet at the first party of the season at the Spanish Embassy in 1957 when she met Dominick Elwes, son of the Royal Portrait Painter Simon Elwes, the two hit the world headlines when her father made her a Ward of Court, preventing them from marrying in the UK. They eloped to Cuba where events took a somewhat surreal turn when their stay was curtailed by the onset of the Cuban Revolution in 1958 but not before they were wined and dined by some of America’s most notorious gangsters and had struck up friendships with Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Ernest Hemingway in Havana as they sat around the gambling tables.

Kennedy’s road to interior design was laid by Dominick on their return to London in the early 1960s when he nonchalantly offered her assistance to the emerging and highly successful David Mlinaric after he was forced to turn down a commission from the young couple’s friend Jimmy Goldsmith on the basis that he had too many other projects. Tessa completed the job with vigour, despite having three young children at home and quickly established a reputation for creating luxurious schemes where practicality and the comfort of her clients were always a consideration. Her first accolade was the winning of a competition to design Grovesnor House Hotel while still with Mlinaric in 1968, which gave her the boost she needed to establish her own studio Tessa Kennedy Design with her Mlinaric colleague Michael Sumner. Together they went on to win many other commissions including the design for the Equestrian Club in Riyadh, which resulted in Kennedy being the first woman to work for her own company in Saudi Arabia.


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Naturally the design principles she applies in her work are evident in her own homes. Many of her sumptuous interiors have been featured by House & Garden, World of Interiors, Vogue and Tatler. What these articles and the collection offered here capture is how much of her remarkable life is reflected in the pieces that act as catalysts for anecdotes about amusing or poignant events with her friends and the process of collecting as a whole.

A selection of the lots were inherited from her grandmother Milica Popovic, whose brother was Dusan Popovic one of the founders of Yugoslavia. She married twice, first to Kennedy’s grandfather Dr. Ivan Rikard Ivanović also a politician and then to the shipping tycoon Božidar ‘Božo’ Banac. Her apartment in Monte Carlo was a hub for social gatherings where Princess Grace and other members of the social elite gathered to watch the Grand Prix from her balcony. But how many other people can say that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton lent them their private jet in order to fly home from Monaco with their grandmother’s ormolu wall trophies (lot 1) as they were too large to carry on a commercial plane? Or that Marlon Brando gifted them a painting (lot 58) after an extended stay at their Surrey residence while he was filming? Of course these connections are perfectly natural when you are as well-connected as Kennedy and your second husband is the Hollywood film producer Elliot Kastner. Many a summer holiday was spent on set with him and Kennedy’s five children, where cast and crew became a close-knit family. They had such a good time on the set of Missouri Breaks in the mid-1970s that Marlon Brando gave Kennedy his jacket (lot 121) as a memento. But what is so enjoyable about these stories is although modestly told there is an underlying pride in the glamorous connections that time has not diminished.


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The biggest influence on Kennedy’s collection was the ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev whom she met at a party at the Royal Palace in Monte Carlo in the 1960s whilst visiting her grandmother and with whom she shared a close friendship with until his death in 1993. Their joint interest in rich textiles and opulent costume, ecclesiastical and gothic tastes is perhaps most obvious in the design of her bedroom.
The Aubusson hangings were among several lots purchased from the Nureyev collection which Christie’s sold in two parts (New York and London) in 1995. She has fond memories of collecting Nureyev from the stage door at the Royal Opera House after his performances and driving him past all the antique shops she had been to that week, having selected items she knew he would like to see as they drove past. The half-tester bed (lot 79) also reveals how the right piece is often worth the wait. She first spotted it in the window of an antique shop in Islington where she was distraught to find it had already been sold but a year later it was back in the window as the buyer had moved to a smaller property. This time it had been promised to Filmways Pictures to dress the set of The Eye of the Devil (1966) but Kennedy could not let it go. She bought it immediately and rented it to the film company instead.




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Some of you might already be slightly familiar with the sale as it has garnered a lot of attention lately in the press, notably in the ‘Curtain Call’ article of House & Garden April edition which features for the final time Kennedy’s Knightsbridge lavish and theatrical apartment with its opulent dining room’s crimson silk velvet walls.
But whilst this title is fitting for the apartment it seems that Kennedy herself is not quite ready to hang up her hat.

A-Gent of Style was particularly taken by the decadent Renzo Mongiardino-esque silk voile-tented hallway and also the nook-cum-dining room wrapped in Claremont’s sublime, multifarious print Coccini. Here is the fabulous shoot with all the items in the sale in situ:


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And below is what A-Gent of Style saw as he went around the exhibition and discovered some of the treasures that made Tessa Kennedy’s glamourous and romantic life already so full (if these objects could speak!). Given the provenance and stories behind most objets, it wouldn’t be surprising if the lots went for much higher than their estimates. A-Gent can also testify that most of the objets are in good condition and have not lost the lustre of Kennedy’s glitzy, Hollywood-meets-royalty, jet-set style.

A-Gent of Style also had the great privilege to meet the charming decorator herself who delighted him with a few anecdotes (a few years ago, Tessa’s children wanted her to sign up for ‘Celebrity hoarders’, a Channel 4 series with regular people) and talked about the difference between a cut velvet and a gaufrage, as you do at 11.30 a.m on a Saturday (the headboard of her storied Gothic bed below is made out of cut velvet and is not gaufraged, a small but exacting detail A-Gent of Style would like to share with those of you who might lose sleep for not knowing).

You can view the full catalogue of the sale here. Happy biding!



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A-Gent of Style would like to thank Christie’s and especially Charlotte Young,
this sale’s specialist, for all their help and support.

 – Photos by Christie’s, House & Garden, A-Gent of Style and Tessa Kennedy
(new follower on A-Gent of Style‘s Instagram!) –




A CELEBRATION OF BRITISH DESIGN, CRAFTMANSHIP, ENGINEERING & INNOVATION WITH DAVID LINLEY & A-GENT OF STYLE





A-Gent of Style is delighted to announce a new and exciting collaboration.



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Yesterday saw the start of a fascinating interactive exhibition in the LINLEY store on Pimlico Road, curated by David Linley and Scott Simpson, which will run for a fortnight until March 14, 2014 inclusive. The idea for the exhibition grew from Viscount Linley’s desire to encourage an appreciation of ‘making’, not only in terms of traditional craftsmen but also the modern-day innovators and engineers who are artists and craftsmen in their own right. The carefully selected nineteen brands forming the exhibition are all renowned for the design and creation of fine objects and have been brought together under one roof in a celebration of
British craftsmanship, design, engineering and innovation.

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The night before, A-Gent of Style was invited to have a sneak preview of the exhibition before the 200-strong VIP guests arrived at the launch event and the glamourous party got in full swing. Throughout the vast and beautiful flagship store, LINLEY had made room, especially for the occasion, for the nineteen companies which had been carefully selected; each of them had an allocated pop-up stand or area to promote their brand by displaying and showcasing key items – original, iconic or specially commissioned – from their collections. Some of their representatives and artisans were on hand to demonstrate their craft and artistry and show off their technique and dexterity. 


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Providing a captivating insight into the traditions and values of the selected brands, from motorbike makers and cufflink designers to bespoke milliners and spectacle specialists, the exhibition, now open to the public, aims to unlock the creation process, and in doing so celebrates the unquantifiable amount of skill and attention to detail involved in creating each and every piece; whether it be an intricate dial on a customised Bamford Watch Department watch or the tiny pistons on a Hornby train. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the artisans from many of the different disciplines in order to experience first-hand the unique skills and attributes which have made them the best of their kind. From a Barnard and Westwood printing press to a LINLEY marquetry expert, the eclectic display demonstrates the unrivalled breadth and depth of skills of the British innovators, designers, craftsmen and engineers behind each and every piece. A curious fascination about the way things work, combined with a keen eye for detail, motivated David Linley to not only create the very finest pieces of furniture possible but to encourage the appreciation of exemplary craftsmanship in others.


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Mike Flewitt, Victoria Campbell-Bell, Mr and Mrs Eric Heerema

Lock (4)

Absolute Taste (1)

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Gerrry McGovern and Stephen Bayley

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According to LINLEY, it is important to realise that luxury is not just about the end cost but about the spirit and the skill of the creator, combined with the very finest quality that gives it character and soul. Mass manufacturing cannot achieve the feeling of the soft leather from a pair of custom-made Lobb shoes moulded expertly to your feet, the perfect fit of a custom-made Lock hat or the minute accuracy of the engraving on a Purdey gun which leaves it perfectly balanced; it does not allow for the hours of research and engineering that go into making a Bremont watch withstand the force of an ejector seat, nor the extraordinary expertise required to fine-tune a McLaren engine.


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Another aspect – and a very noble one – of this enterprise is that the exhibition brings together one company with a three hundred year history with another with less than two years’, demonstrating that craftsmanship and the pursuit of perfection are as alive today as they ever were. BVS Handbags, Hardy Fishing and Globe Trotter luggage hold their own alongside a Rolls Royce Aerospace engine and a JCB digger; a clear indication that from the initial concept to the finished object, from hand-making to high-tech machinery, uniqueness is inherent to each and every item in the exhibition.

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LINLEY was founded in 1985 by David Linley with the aim of designing and manufacturing furniture of the highest quality. The now well established British design company enjoys prominence as both a retail and private commissions business specialising in the design and production of furniture, upholstery, interiors and home accessories of a superlative quality. The abiding philosophy and brand ethos was – and remains – superlative British craftsmanship, distinctive design and exemplary service. At the launch party, one of the company’s cabinet makers explained to us and showed us how marquetry was done. A very precise and intricate job requiring immense skills and also a lot of patience.


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Participating companies:

Barnard & Westwood, the quintessentially British fine printing and Bookbinding Company based in Central London, specialises in combining traditional skills and methods with modern technology to create beautiful bespoke pieces of print. Founded in 1921, the company holds Royal Warrants for both Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. Barnard & Westwood designed the incredibly beautiful and intricate invitations and posters of the exhibition representing the UK map and the various attributes of the trades on show. On the night, the company  kindly offered some of the guests to have their notebooks, that came in a choice of glorious colours, personalised by ones of their artists in gold  letters. 

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Bremont Watches, the award-winning British watch company based in Henley on Thames, is famed for creating beautifully engineered chronometers. Founded by two British brothers, Nick and Giles English, Bremont originated from the brothers’ joint lifetime love and passion for engineering and aviation. Bremont partnered with Martin-Baker, one of Great Britain’s finest engineering companies, to create a watch that could withstand the force of an ejector seat.

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Bremont Watches (4)

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Bamford Watch Department is a name that has become synonymous with uncompromising style and quality. Driven by their passion for engineering excellence and innovation, Bamford is proud to be the first company to personalise a range of steel sports watches. Inspired by the demand of their clients to wear watches that are exclusive and individual, A secret formula is used to create its famous blacked-out Rolex watches – the skill is in the science.


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BVS Bespoke creates some of the most luxuriously beautiful, yet practical, handbags and accessories available. The unique design centres on the use of only the finest materials, exceptional build quality and functionality.   Sensibility of design and exceptional craftsmanship set these bags apart; they are not merely objects but works of art.

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C.W. Dixey has been creating exquisite eyewear in London for a discerning and sophisticated clientele since 1777. Their ethos has always been quality and exclusivity and it remains so today. The use of fine materials, limited production and artisan craftsmanship ensures that their eyewear collection follows in the purest C.W. Dixey tradition. Famous clientele of C.W. Dixey includes Napoleon Bonaparte and Sir Winston Churchill.


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Deakin & Francis
have been creating the world’s finest cufflinks since 1786 in their workshop in Birmingham. They produce fine quality handmade jewellery in precious metal, incorporating vitreous enamel and fine gemstones. Seven generations after Charles Washington Shirley Deakin developed the product range; the business is today owned and managed by Henry and James Deakin. They have created over 1,000 designs for business people, celebrities and members of royalty worldwide.

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Gladstone Motorcycles is the first bespoke British motorcycle brand to come to the market since 1894. Their mantra is simple: to design and build limited production runs of the finest handmade British motorcycles available. Gladstone combine their relationships with the most famous British engine and frame manufacture with their vision of what dictates the perfect incarnation of two wheeled individualism. Everything is handmade, from the leather saddles to the wheels.

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Elizabeth Hurley and Henry Cole




Globe-Trotter
, established in 1897, is famed for hand making beautiful suitcases in Hertfordshire using original manufacturing methods. Today, Globe-Trotter products are style icons adopted by purveyors of traditional craftsmanship and a timeless aesthetic. All leather is sourced from UK tanneries to make the handles and iconic Globe-Trotter corners which are created over a period of five days on antique Victorian presses. Captain Falcon Scott travelled with Globe-Trotter luggage on the infamous Antarctic expedition of 1912.

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 JCB, one of the world’s top three manufacturers of construction equipment, employs around 10,000 people on four continents. Their story is one of innovation, ambition and sheer hard work. From humble beginnings in 1945, the company has grown into a global force in manufacturing, renowned for its pioneering spirit. Today, JCB has some of the finest engineering facilities across the globe, produces a range of over 300 machines and maintains a reputation for unrivalled customer service.


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John Lobb
, one of Britain’s last remaining bespoke shoemakers create the finest hand-made to measure shoes and boots. Lobb are synonymous with the very best of British craft and, as a result, all shoes are handmade in England using tools and techniques that have been passed down through generations of craftsmen. A pair of Lobb’s handmade shoes are a work of art, unique to their owner. Lobb stores a last (model) of each and every client’s foot – from Aristotle Onassis to Roald Dahl, Frank Sinatra to King Edward VII.


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Lock & Co. is the oldest hat shop in the world, as well as being one of the oldest family businesses still in existence. Established in 1676, Lock’s have supplied headwear to many tens of thousands of people who have sought out their quality and service. They were the first hatters to design the iconic Bowler hat, famed for its resilience and hard wearing qualities. It was tested by William Coke who commissioned it for his gamekeepers, he jumped on it and when it withstood his weight, he bought it! Two models were parading throughout the store with different hats

 

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Lock


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McLaren Automotive, the British manufacturer of luxury, high-performance sports cars is located at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, Surrey. Famed for their engineering expertise and innovative design skills, the brand continues to expand, operating through a dedicated global network of retailers in every major automotive market. The rate of development at the McLaren Technology Centre is so intense that their engineers produce a new part to the cars every 17 minutes.  On display was the red McLaren 12C Spider which is a lightweight, mid-engine open-top sports car combines the astonishing performance of the 12C with the increased exhilaration of roof-down motoring. Unlike most other spiders or convertibles, the 12C Spider offers the same performance, handling and driver enjoyment as the fixed-roof coupe version. Engine Configuration: V8 Twin Turbo /2799 cc. Engine Material: Aluminium block & cylinder heads.

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 Palawan Press was established in 1993 by Simon Draper who set out to publish books of unsurpassed quality – in design, binding, illustration and authorship – of interest to lovers of beautiful things. All of Palawan’s books are produced to the highest possible production standards, and no effort or expense is spared to ensure that these standards are met. Named after the beautiful Palawan peacock of the Philippines, production materials are always of the best quality, and no detail is overlooked, from the construction of the slipcases to the colour of the ribbon markers.

 
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James Purdey & Sons have been perfecting the art of the best gun since 1814. The guns have always been made in London and the factory only employs the very best craftsmen to create them, many of whom have handed down their skills from father to son which means that the Purdey legacy has truly been maintained over the years. Purdey is dedicated to continuing their tradition of craftsmanship, excellence and attention to detail – the barrel of a Purdey gun is machined to within four thousandths of an inch – in the hope that many generations to come will be able to enjoy the exceptional pleasure of owning a bespoke Purdey gun.

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Rolls Royce Aerospace is a major manufacturer of aero engines for all sectors of the airliner and corporate jet market. Since its inception, the Rolls Royce name has become synonymous with integrity, reliability and innovation. Their reputation has been built on their engineering credentials and they are at the very forefront of science and technology. Rolls Royce powers more than 30 types of commercial aircraft and has 12,500 engines in service with customers around the world.

 

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 Hardy Bros, famed for creating the ‘Perfect’ reel in 1891, value its tradition as well as its founders’ endless quest for improvement. In the past decade or so, Hardys has paid homage to its history by creating several lines of reels designed specifically for the collectors’ market which have proved very popular with many anglers. However, collecting is not all that Hardy is about and the firm remains at the cutting edge of tackle development.


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The exhibition has kindly been sponsored by Nyetimber, the maker of the finest English sparkling wine. They are the perfect partner with LINLEY for this celebratory exhibition due to the fact that their winemaking team is among the most proficient in the world and, like all other brands exhibiting, everything they do is done in the passionate pursuit of the very best quality possible. Nyetimber has had a single aim ever since the very first vines were planted: to make the finest English sparkling wine there is. All Nyetimber wines are produced from the 152 hectares they have planted at the best sites in West Sussex and Hampshire. The winemaking team is among the most proficient in the world and everything they do is done in the passionate pursuit of the very best quality possible. Prior to harvest, the grapes are tasted to ensure the best flavour development before picking and if they aren’t up to scratch, they simply aren’t used. In 2012 no vintage was bottled because the quality of the grapes was not up to the standards that Nyetimber adheres to with every bottle – a sign of their drive for perfection. Their rosé cuvée was A-Gent of Style‘s favourite, which he obliged to taste, only for the sake of research of course.

 
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As previous features can attest, A-Gent of Style has always been a great advocate, supporter and promoter of British design, craftmanship and artistry in all its shapes and forms, so if you feel the same, you shouldn’t miss British craftsmanship, design, engineering and innovation. The LINLEY store is open Monday to Friday 10am-6pm and on Saturday 10am-5pm (closed on Sunday).


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A huge thank you to LINLEY and especially Lou Lou Graham for their collaboration

– Photos by LINLEY, Glen Arkadieff and A-Gent of Style –




‘A LONDONER IN PARIS’: JANUARY 2014






A-Gent of Style –
and most of the London design scene or so it seemed descended in the French capital last week to attend Paris Déco Off, Maison & Objet but also a private tour of the ‘1925, When Art Deco Dazzled the World’ exhibition and so much more! For those of you who didn’t follow A-Gent‘s adventures live on Twitter and Instagram, all will be revealed soon in his series
A Londoner in Paris‘. Stay tuned!





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