Top critical review
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on March 3, 2004
Nicholas Haslam must surely be the most well-connected decorator of his time. As a very young man he was hanging out with the likes of Lady Diana Cooper and company. The book's inside-flap wastes no time in reminding us of his celebrity clientel.He has had privilged entree to some of the most ravishingly beautiful rooms of his time, and he is an astute observer of the elements that go to make up that thing called Style. His essays are excellently presented, his watercolours delightful.
If only he had brought these talents to bear upon his own interiors, which are at their best merely whimsical and at worst faintly tawdry. The gorgeous photography serves to reinforce the notion that all interior decoration is somehow suspect. Use of materials and architectural detail is arbitrary to a fault.In short, nothing quite rings true, and the quality of Character that this designer admires in the works of his predecessors is disconcertingly absent from these hollow excercises. Perhaps when Evelyn Waugh's Mrs Beaver noted that "decoration is not an exact science" she gave the world something to chew on.
Several years ago Mr Haslam moved into the Hunting Lodge, lived in previously by the great John Fowler. A double paged spread illustrates a corner of the diminutive Sitting Room. A bulky sofa having an array of "accent" cushions is thrust further into the room by a table behind it, and above that table are 18century French engravings in gilt frames. The effect is ludicrous. One hardly expected Nicky Haslam to dupicate the Fowler scheme, but at the very least he might have honored the spirit of the place, and restrained himself from tarting things up.
Nonetheless, this is a fascinating glimpse into a sort of unreal, fantasy world where publicity and social skills count for
something alarmingly persuasive. Being a good interior decorator isn't in the least a simple matter, yet the myth lives on in these pages.