Tuesday, 30 July 2013


John Fowler  (Colefax and Fowler) was one of my heroes when I first became aware of houses and their furnishings and I would admire greatly his restorations of grand old houses, usually illustrated in the magazine Country Life, way before the birth of World of Interiors and other glossy decorating magazines.   It wasn't just the attractive patterns of the fabrics and the elegant accessories he used with good traditional furniture - it was the care and knowledge and research that he gave to all these period projects, working with scraps of old covers, snippets of fine curtains and scrapings of paints, to achieve the authentic restoration of many famous rooms in stately homes. He also had the ability to innovate where necessary to provide comfortable accommodation for his clients.  He could draw and paint, and no doubt was handy with pins and needles to demonstrate his famous silk curtains which were sometimes based on 18thC. draped dresses.His own cottage orne was testimony to his invention and perfect taste.
 He was a man who would climb a ladder to check on the plasterwork, search the attics for forgotten treasures and scrape panelling  to re-create the original paint.  When I saw the pictures of Daylesford in Glos. now the home of Lady  Bamford, but formerly Lord Rothermere's property, I was completely bowled over by the beauty of the rooms and their restoration by him, to look like the original home of Warren Hastings  No expense was spared and much of the original ebony and ivory inlaid Indian furniture was sought out and returned to the rooms.  It was lovely, and it had the very special feature of a Morning Room and an Evening Room!

I had a bit of luck at the London 'Little Chelsea' Fair which I attended for about 20 years,  when I was offered 6 identical-sized Colefax chintz covered screens by a man who told me they had been cleared from 'that Mountbatten place', which I presumed was Broadlands.   Lady Louis must have ordered them for the bedrooms in the 20s. newly married,  all to match the curtains or wallpapers, and to conceal the marble basins and bidets in the corners of her spare rooms,  The exquisite patterns were early Victorian, rosebuds, lily of the valley, etc., and what made the fabrics special was that each one had a very fine background pattern, often stylised leaves or little spots or a fine trellis, which gave them extra depth and quality.  They did not last long with me and my buyers were so happy to have their touch of Colefax.  I thus had an insight into the detail that went into the design of the original Victorian creations and have judged fabrics and wallpapers by these standards ever since!
  I could not help trying to find things that reminded me of Fowler's 'look' and so I did a corner of my sitting room up with the famous chintz  'Hollyhocks', (Warner's, then Lee Jofa and Claremont copied it) for curtains and cushions,  a painted chest in those exact colours, turquoise and Chinese red,  fine needlework cushions, a little French 'canape' settee upholstered in striped turquoise C.and F. cotton, (not shown) and an Edwardian caned and trellised pair of armchairs in the Venetian style,with the same striped cotton,  and a background of Colefax wide- striped duck egg wallpaper round the room.   A pretty piece of porcelain on an elegant candlestick table (not shown) was my final touch!  My modest tribute to a great artist.

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