The Best of the Best 2003: Interior Designer - Nicky Haslam

  • Jenny Wilhide

“I think traditional style is the best,” says Nicky Haslam, who has decorated for the best, from Natalie Wood to Ringo Starr, Sir Rocco and Lady Forte, Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, and Charles Saatchi. “I like to create utterly comfortable but exciting places that make life feel good. The Louis XVI world got it perfectly right.”

The list of people the London designer has employed over the years is no less glittering: sculptor Anish Kapoor made furniture for him; James Ogilvy (son of Princess Alexandra of Kent and now publisher of Luxury Briefing) was his van driver; Cath Kidston and William Yeoward are now famous for their fabrics and crystal, respectively.

Haslam has been influenced by a variety of style-makers, among them Elsie de Wolfe; Geoffrey Scott, who wrote The Architecture of Humanism and who decorated Haslam’s parents’ house; Diana Vreeland, his boss when he worked at Vogue in the 1960s; Jean Howard’s house in L.A. (“I can remember every inch”); and films, such as Auntie Mame, which had a great impact.

The Haslam style is unabashedly opulent. He will not tolerate a perfectly serviceable but banal wool carpet when a custom silk velvet one will do. But he is adept at adapting. He purchased remnants of textured wallpaper and had his painters cover it with silver paint and then add garlands of flowers. “I like working with incredible craftsmen, but I’m very hands-on too—I set every single shell into the walls of a room in Barbados myself.”

He wears his encyclopedic knowledge lightly and is gentle with his clients, who usually become friends. “I’m one of the only decorators who likes to work with my clients’ existing furniture. I think it’s rude to insist on throwing things out. There is always a way to incorporate them into a new scheme.”

Haslam’s favorite type of client? “A single man, with a ravishing girlfriend, who is much too busy to involve himself in my work until it’s completed!”

NPH Design, +44.207.730.0808

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