TWO COGNOSCENTI OF INTERIOR DECORATION






Sometimes, one makes promises to oneself knowing perfectly well one won’t keep said promises.

A-Gent of Style is in the thralls of last-minute packing before a much-anticipated break in the sun and had decided not to blog for a whole week – a first! But sometimes life throws things at you unexpectedly.







In this case, it was more a case of the postman throwing a big, heavy, sealed parcel at me (almost literally) two days ago, which could mean only two things:  the October issue of The World of Interiors had arrived and I had to break my oath (and hurriedly use scanned photographs; apology in advance for the poor quality).

‘Heralded’ last week on Facebook as being as voluminous as the iconic Vogue ‘September Issue’, I furiously ripped open the white envelope as if it were Christmas Day wondering who would be on the cover. And there it was, with all its tell-tale clues:

A most glamourous and serene off-white boudoir with a David Hicks-esque off-white and gold-trimmed four-poster bed graced by a mink throw, an armchair upholstered in Quadrille‘s timeless Arbre de Matisse Reverse, a chequerboard rug and white linen fabric on the walls. And that immediately screamed to me: Veere Grenney.





Until you receive your own copy with the glossy photographs, I will let you rejoice in this tour de force of interior design that is Veere Greney and David Oliver’s splendid townhouse in Central London. Having worked for Veere Grenney Associates and because of what could be ‘a conflict of interest’, A-Gent of Style had to restrain himself from ‘analysing’ and ‘dissecting’ this feature. Sometimes words are not needed; photographs speak for themselves. But what I can say is that I had been to site before the project started and that it was simply a…dump…


…until two accomplished design aesthetes work their magic!
























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TRIPPING THE LIGHT FANTASTIC: GARETH DEVONALD SMITH



 

 

Six months ago, A-Gent of Style was invited by Mary Fox Linton to join her at the Homes & Gardens Designer Awards 2013 hosted at the British Museum where the eminent Interior Decorator deservedly received the Lifetime Achievement Award presented to her by none other than Nicky Haslam. As you would imagine, it was a wonderful evening especially as she introduced me to Gareth Devonald Smith.




I was familiar with Gareth’s fantastical and whimsical work through a few lighting and furniture commissions that he had made for instance for the Murano restaurant, Veere Grenney Associates where I used to work and also for Porta Romana.

Ham Yard Hotel, Firmdale Hotels, London

Ham Yard Hotel, Firmdale Hotels, London

 

Murano, London

Murano, London



Veere Grenney Associates - Wyoming project

Veere Grenney Associates

 



Veere Grenney's apartment

Wall sconces for Veere Grenney’s apartment

 


Fast forward to a fortnight ago and the delightful Gareth had accepted to be A-Gent of Style’s next ‘victim’ and invited to me to his studio. Nothing had prepared me of course for the spectacle that would unfold before my eyes. Situated in a Victorian industrial building’s conversion at the back of a gated neighbourhood, Gareth ushered me down the long corridor of his ground floor studio that opens up on a vast, bright and all-white space replete with various pieces of his, that were either standing, sitting or hanging, each of them as striking and unique as the other. Needless to say, I was instantly gasping at the sheer beauty of his otherwordly and intricate constructions.








 

A staircase leads upstairs to Gareth’s two-floor ‘living’ zone where some of his work is naturally featuring amongst an elegant and interesting juxtaposition of mid-century decorative pieces. Like many other impulsive creators, having both his working and living spaces seperated by only one flight of stairs allow Gareth to channel his artistic and creative flow solely on his craft whenever it may strike.




Gareth’s work is more than just decorative: whether you want to call for instance his light suspensions ‘sculptural lights’ or ‘light structures’, the word ‘chandelier’ is somehow not quite befitting and almost reductive as chandeliers can too often conjure up classic images of a Louis XV Rococo glitzy pendant or a Murano glass light fitting. And Gareth’s pieces are much more than that. Their post-modernist look – you certainly couldn’t call his work ‘traditional’ – is already timeless and difficult to classify. I asked Gareth if he was influenced by other artists but he explained he doesn’t consciously associate his work with any other artists or knowingly feel influenced by external visual factors. “I work in a bit of a vacuum” he said. “People say my work has an odd quality to it, and I think it’s because I work from inside myself, rather than looking outside”.













It is therefore not surprising that his creations singularly stand-out and are notable for their distinctive and intelligent designs, high-quality materials and exquisite finishes. His private commissions, all tailored to his clients’ requirements, are sought by distinguished interior decorators and discerning collectors and can be found in some of the world’s most beautiful residences, hotels (there is a project with Kit Kemp of Firmdale Hotels in the pipeline), restaurants ( Murano) and yachts. His work is often featured in leading publications like House & Garden, Architectural Digest or The Independent.







Gareth’s commissions can understandably take weeks to several months from the inceptive brief and drawings to conception and installation. He explained he generally works on the preliminary stages of the construction such as welding and soldering in his studio but would outsource bigger elements. He painstakingly but passionately creates his commissions from different cut pieces of materials that he would then organically and invisibly join and weld. He tends to work with hard materials such as steel, copper (reclaimed), brass, marble, perspex, bronze, silver, gold or plaster but also crystals, gems or stones, which can be in different finishes: high gloss, polished, brushed, patinated, etched, powder coated or rough. His palette of colours seems to be neutral but bold accents of colour, like blue or red, are not unusual.










What I also found most fascinating about Gareth is his versatility and obvious high-skilled artistry as a multi-faceted designer: he first studied as a textile designer, became an interior designer and worked for Mary Fox Linton in the 1980s (hence the connection), then began working as an artist and designer, gravitating towards metalwork (he learnt silver soldering whilst sharing a workshop with jewellery designers) and eventually producing the sculptural lights and furniture which we see today. He is also a painter…









Be it a floral and feminine design or a geometric and architectural one – the latter being more his current inclination – his objets are undeniably exciting and intriguing: contrasting and alternating shapes, distinct tangle, symmetry and asymmetry, kinetics, energy, tension, balance  always arranged in an elegant and often playful manner contribute to Gareth unique aesthetics.

 











Through his art, Gareth proves that, whilst good architecture and interiors are essential to creating incredible design, the impact and effectiveness of his pieces are instrumental and almost essential to enhance a décor in a very unique way.

 It is with great anticipation that A-Gent of Style awaits to see Gareth’s new collection for Porta Romana that will be launched under his name during Focus this September and also his own first collection in the UK.




“A LONDONER IN PARIS”: HICKS-TATIC





…and ecstatic, two very good words to describe the day A-Gent of Style experienced last week in Paris.

As I was wandering through the streets of Saint-Sulpice with my friend’s dog Ben,
I turned a corner into Rue de Tournon, a few steps from our apartment and
Les Jardins du Luxembourg. Unbeknownst to me, I stumbled upon a shop (at number 12) which subtle and discreet name letters on the wall made me go back on my steps and realise that this wasn’t any shop. It was the David Hicks France shop. And nothing or noone had prepared me for this.



Now when you are an interior designer, David Hicks’ name resonates with many things. The late illustrious English interior decorator has been one of my decorating heroes for some time now and his legacy and reputation are second to none. His influence has also had an impact on many accomplished designers over the past decades. I know for instance my previous boss Veere Grenney is an avid admirer – he now owns Hicks’ stunning 18th C Palladian folly ‘The Temple’ in the country.

As I stepped into the shop, I felt as if my senses had been ‘assaulted’. Suddenly, I was enveloped in an hallucinatory ‘Hicks-esque’ microcosm, a kaleidoscope of vibrant, garish, saturated colours, patterns and textures, a pumped-up universe of kitsch and sophistication.

And if you are an admirer of, say, only 18th C heavily-gilded Rococo, Bierdermeier, Jean Prouvé or any form of minimalism, avert your eyes now!




This boutique was created in 1973, opposite the original Saint Laurent Rive Gauche boutique (that A-Gent of style featured in All About Yves), to offer the sophisticated Parisian circles the groovy Hicks look that enraptured London in the 1970s. It is now the only Hicks shop remaining in the world. Why can’t we have one in London?? Next time you are in Paris, make sure you pay it a visit. It’s heaven!

Since its opening, David Hicks France has offered a plethora of products from the David Hicks archives and brand – furniture, lighting, wallpapers, fabrics – thanks to the passion and genius of current creative director Christophe d’Aboville and manager Marie-Dominique Cunaud who have tirelessly promoted the look and the name and re-interpreted Hicks’ rich design heritage for the last decade or so.


It was so exciting to share my passion with the delightful Marie-Dominique who could not have been any more welcoming or nice. She even took me to their next door art gallery where they exhibit contemporary pieces of art in a ‘Hicks-esque’ setting.



David Hicks
(1929-1998) was a complete decorating maverick who revolutionised interior decoration back in the 1960s and 1970s and his vision was truly unique. Back in the day, his interiors must have looked ever so daring, unusual, radical and ultimately modern. I think he particularly excelled at mixing antiques furniture with his now iconic layers of clashing colours, highly geometric patterns, contrasting textures and his extravagance, sophistication and intelligence.



Here is a selection of David Hicks legendary and carefully arranged interiors with his compositions of objects and artworks, or “tablescapes” as he liked to call them:



“Often imitated, never duplicated”

Some of Hicks’ iconic graphics and their modern re-interpretations:



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And finally, if you want to know more about the decorating legend, I can’t recommend enough this fantastic book by his son Ashley Hicks:




Some treasurable oldies:





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