Issue 6, October 25th 2010

Painting the Town ‘Red’

Daring colours, contemporary art mixed with antique and modern furnishing, many of the styles popularly seen today are resonant of a vivid trend that took flight in the 60s, courtesy eminent British designer David Hicks.

David Hicks (1929-1998) hailed from Coggeshall, Essex, the son of a stockbroker. He attended a Charterhouse school after which a stint at the army made him realize that this sort of career wasn’t for him. He then enrolled at the Central School of Art and Design in London, which led to relations with advertising agencies and photographers, such as Terence Donovan. It was at this time that David started working as a graphics designer of product labels for advertising firm J Walter Thompson. His interest in art and design took him all over Europe, studying design and architecture styles from the many old world manors and houses.

David Hicks, the Designer was born after his first assignment that was his mother’s house was featured in acclaimed magazine House & Garden, a bold design that was refreshingly different from the observed styles of the time.

This interior designer and decorator, was then wooed by a sea of clients, all of whom became close friends as well. So talented was David that the “tablescapes,” – a term David coined, denoting objects arranged as landscapes on a horizontal surface – was adopted by his peers and his work and fame spread far and wide to other parts of the world, although his style of design was more suited to the wealthy.

In 1959 David set up David Hicks Ltd and later David Hicks International Marketing, with branch offices in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Pakistan and Australia. His style of bold colours, wall-to-wall carpeting, geometric designs, inspired the work of many. Although he called his work primarily “Victorian” he loved to mix up fashionable furnishings fabrics and stark colours with a dash of antiques and antique furniture, and a touch of modern art as well. If the carpets and textiles available in the market were not appealing to him, he would design his own products, in addition to cutlery and other accessories.

David's early clients were a mixture of the aristocracy, media and fashion magnates (Vidal Sassoon, Helena Rubinstein, Violet Manners, Mrs Condé Nast and Mrs Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.), who were ardent admirers of his designs.

While at the zenith of his stardom, David married Lady Pamela Mountbatten, a relationship that gained him more stature and influence among his now vast clientele.

He decorated the private apartments at Windsor Castle, Berks, for Charles, Prince of Wales, and Princess Anne and designed the interiors of the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth II, the Raffles nightclub, London, and yachts for the Saudi Arabian royal family, as well as offices for the government of New South Wales, the British Steel Corporation and the British Embassy, Washington, DC.

Soon after, David began designing apartments in Manhattan, USA while promoting his carpet and fabric products as well as moving onto garden design. At that time, he had opened shop in at least 15 countries around the world.

The last few years of this eccentric designer’s life was spent in a lavishly designed home in Oxfordshire, which boasted of one of the most extraordinary gardens in England.

David is survived by his three children Edwina, Ashley and India Hicks. He authored nine books on interior design and decoration, David Hicks on Living – with Taste being the most popular.

Sources: Wikipedia, The New York Times, The Independent,



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