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  • DESIGN IN INTERIOR DECORATIONAuthor(s): DAVID HICKSSource: Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, Vol. 124, No. 5236 (MARCH 1976), pp. 181-192Published by: Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and CommerceStable URL: .Accessed: 28/06/2014 12:28

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    IA DAVID paper

    HICKS by




    given to the Society on Wednesday 7th January 1976, with Madame Francis Spar > Design Editor of

    Connaissance des Arts, in the Chair

    The Chairman:] To begin this year by mak- ing my first speech in public - and in English - is already a surprise. But it is an even bigger one for me, a foreigner, to introduce one of the most talented interior designers of the day: Mr. David Hicks. In France, we have usually thought that a flair for decoration was a typical French speciality, a sort of reserved territory! It was admitted that the English produced a great sense of comfort and well-being in their houses, but real decoration could only be French. That was until 1954, when David Hicks appeared on the scene. And, working for Connaissance des Arts , I personally knew that things had to be quickly reconsidered.

    At the same time as Mr. Hicks began his career, a connoisseur in Paris, Carlos de Beistegui, made the English style la mode , with great skill. He was quickly followed by many antique dealers. But the big difference was that Paris was once again going in for reconstitutions of a more or less romantic inspiration. In London David Hicks was moving in a quite opposite direction. He was not interested in merely reconstituting the past, but in bringing about a renaissance, a rejuvenation for a society happy to say good-bye to so many grim and cheerless years. He kept the basic architecture, but painted it in brilliant colours that would have pleased the Adam brothers themselves.

    Because he loves objects he began to arrange them in a new way, like still-life pictures. In fact, he invented 'tablescapes', a typical 'Hicks' word. On a table or a console, an antique bust, a few gold boxes, a charming vase or a drawing might meet. He did and does not associate objects merely for their value, but for the way in which their individual characters can mingle to produce special harmony. That is how in the Theodoracopoulos flat in New York, I saw two huge and beautiful bouquets on a pair of Louis

    XV'consoles. As there were probably no vases of the right proportions David Hicks went to Bloomingdale's and bought two ordinary gal- vanized buckets. I am sure the flowers have been changed but not the buckets !

    When decorating the houses of the famous, David Hicks discovered that the basic materials and furniture that he wanted to use in order to decorate his own style did not exist. He had to create himself what he needed. So he opened a shop in London, and designed his first carpet. Other textiles followed, soon to be asked for all over the world. Now his style is so well adapted to a certain taste that you are sure to find, in one of his shops, in Paris or Madrid or Tokyo, what is missing in your house to make it elegant. People buy du David Hicks' without even know- ing it.

    In Jersey last year, I visited a very important collection of paintings in a house with no decor- ation at all. It was the most extravagant mixture of nothing I had ever seen. But the private apartments had just been redone, with great pride, by the owners themselves. They were lovely, gay and perfectly adapted to the house. The carpet, wall-paper and curtains were David Hicks - which the owners learned with delight.

    After David Hicks, decorator, comes the tour deforce of David Hicks, designer; plus the power and the strength of David Hicks's organization.

    Nobody and certainly no French designer has ever achieved that in decoration. For the first time an interior designer has gained an international reputation, as did the great fashion creator Christian Dior, or, now, Yves Saint- Laurent. David Hicks has, I think, invented the 'ready-to-decorate'.

    All this has only been possible because behind the trademark exists, full of fantasy and serious- ness, an artist who understands and loves his time.


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    The following paper, which was illustrated , was then given.

    I read

    am designer


    a paper

    honoured in thirty-one

    to the

    to be years Royal

    the to first be Society

    asked interior

    to of

    designer in thirty-one years to be asked to read a paper to the Royal Society of

    Arts. I particularly wanted my paper to be called 'Design in Interior Decoration' be- cause that was what Grace Lovat-Fraser called her paper which she read to the Society in 1945, and it is design in interior decoration which is so important.

    When reading her paper, I was struck by the fact that although it had been written over thirty years ago, I agreed with all she said, with the exception of one idea, which I suspect she would have reconsidered were she composing a paper in 1976. Although she did not define the difference between interior decoration and interior design, which I should like to do, she clearly was a designer working in the field of interior decoration as opposed to an interior decorator.

    Interior decoration is the art of achieving the maximum with the minimum. It is the art of making the most of your house, your rooms and your possessions. Generally speaking, an interior decorator who is not also a designer deals with private houses, is a person of imagination and good taste, with a flair for colour and furniture arrangement. An interior designer is concerned with internal architecture, with planning, with space allocation and with the creation of furniture specifically intended for a contem- porary private interior and for contract work in offices, hotels, restaurants, etc.

    Nobody could describe Lady Mendl, Mrs. Somerset Maugham, Billy Baldwin or Boudin as interior designers; nor could they describe Sir John Soane, William Morris, Jon Bannenberg, or possibly myself, purely as interior decorators. Interior designers can also be interior decorators, but I think it is true to say that there are many interior decorators who are not interior designers. I am, perhaps, the only interior decorator and interior designer who is also an author of books on interior decoration and design and a product designer.

    I am not only under contract to design for many different manufacturers in such far apart countries as France and Japan, but I also have a series of shops bearing my name in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Holland, South Africa and Spain, with nearly finalized plans for further shops in Austria, Norway and Italy, and I am also a product designer in the world of apparel as widely varied as men's shoes and women's headscarves.


    The diversity of my design practice pro- duces a stimulating and fresh approach to each new assignment, whether it be for a drawing-room, for kitchenware or for sports- shirts. I must confess I consider myself to be extremely fortunate in the breadth of my work, which seems to enable me perhaps to avoid that staleness which is the constant enemy of innovation.

    For example, on Monday morning I will design a tourist office for the Algerian Government, while in the afternoon I will design umbrellas for a Japanese manufac- turer. On Tuesday morning I will work on an Emir's palace as an interior designer, and in the afternoon work as a product designer, approving and modifying my designs for an English range of kitchenware. Then on Wednesday morning I will work with a French architect on the reconstruction of, and architectural additions to, a villa in the South of France and after this I will design further models for my collection of men's shoes. On Thursday morning I will vet the plans for a new shop lay-out in Johannesburg and in the afternoon complete the designs for a range of sculptured carpets being manufactured in Hong Kong. On Friday morning I will proof-read my sixth book - on flower arrangements - and while driving to the country for the weekend, I will be dictating ideas for luggage designs.

    Needless to say, I am backed in London by a young, enthusiastic design studio and in those countries where I have shops, I also have interior designers. Naturally, it would be impossible to cope with the number of different design activities without their pro- fessional co-operation.

    DESIGN IN INTERIOR DECORATION Interior decoration without design is, as I have said, merely employing a sense of colour, a knowledge of furniture and its arrangement and the ability to select the appropriate accessories, such as lamps. Interior decoration with design is the art of professionally advising clients on creating a truly suitable interior, using a discerning and disciplined eye in order to reflect the charac- ter and personality of each individual client and selecting fabrics and carpets in the con- temporary idiom, ensuring that all fit into the best of modern interior design.

    Interior decoration has existed from the earliest times. More recently, apart from Daniel Marot, Robert Adam, William

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    1974 . London living-room. Directoire swan chair contrasts with sleek snakeskin-covered table and a white marble and smoked mirror fireplace designed by David Hicks. ( This and all succeeding photographs are by R. Guillemot and reproduced by courtesy of Connaissance des Arts)

    Morris and others, interior decoration was not carried out by specialized professionals until the '20S. Architects have usually con- cerned themselves with the structure only, and it was the cabinet makers and upholster- ers who put the rather sparse eighteenth- century interiors together. In the nineteenth century it was the upholsterers and drapers who purveyed the ingredients of the over- filled rooms, and not until the 1920s did the first professionals, who dealt exclusively with interior decoration, appear. Among these were Lady Mendl and Mrs. Somerset Maugham, who began by working for their friends and ended by leaving their mark

    indelibly on the decoration scene throughout the world for the next forty years.

    Sir Winston Churchill said: Without tradition, design is a flock of sheep without a shepherd'. Each period evolves out of some preceding one, and many new ideas are sparked off by previous solutions. It is fas- cinating that one of the oldest stone build- ings in Egypt, the Tomb of Zoser, because of its severe straight lines and stringent proportions looks like the most advanced building of our age.

    Like all other arts, decoration is enor- mously derivative. In exactly the same way as the classical orders of architecture have


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    1974 . A Roman shade of carnation fabric, designed by Hicks, and an *H' patterned, Brussels weave carpet in a tailored bathroom

    been used in many varying forms for three thousand years, we find that decorative motifs have recurred through history. There is not one motif in use to-day that cannot be related to a derivative source.

    In decoration to-day we use chairs, tables and curtains which, in principle, have hardly changed since the Egyptians. The actual material and details have altered but the problems of arrangement, comfort and lighting are basically the same.

    Although my present interest is mainly concerned with modern interiors, furniture and fabrics, I draw continually on experience gained in working with fine furniture and traditional fabrics in period houses. Modern interiors are as dependent on atmosphere as


    traditional ones. The fault of many interiors of to-day is that designers too often neglect the necessity of atmosphere, character, con- trast and pattern.

    The reason why decoration is such an absorbing subject is that all through history it has reflected the character of the person using a particular background. Examples have survived to show us how empresses, great lovers and statesmen lived. The small, intimate background is less well known if it dates from before the nineteenth century. Our age is heavily documented by photo- graphy, films, magazines and books.

    Although the way in which Cleopatra, President Jefferson, Sarah Bernhardt or Jean Harlow arranged their rooms does not apply

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    1974. An extremely small bedroom is almost completely filled with a tester bed . The bathroom in the illustration on the facing page can be seen through the door

    to the ordinary person, it is the same basic problem - creating a background for enter- taining and living.

    The principles of great historic interiors and outstanding modern ones apply to the smallest flat. Good period and good modern interiors have one thing in common - style. Style produces atmosphere and if the style is right, then the interior has taste. I cannot attempt to differentiate between good and bad taste, but I will explain how I make decorating decisions and how I personally

    create atmosphere and style when I show you some slides later on.

    People are often amazed at clients who have a considerable interest in decorating and yet employ a professional interior decorator. One of the a...