Are your candles vulgar? David Hicks’ essential guide to domestic etiquette
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In 1952, a 23-year-old David Hicks set out to make his name as an interior designer – and instructed his mother to buy a house in London to showcase his talents. He proceeded to furnish 22 South Eaton Place with aplomb, combining his family’s traditional English aristocratic style with a rainbow of hues and textures. He put sea green walls with hot pink chairs, a slurry green carpet with a royal purple chair, and a scarlet sofa with mimosa yellow cushions. It was soon photographed for House & Garden magazine, establishing Hicks as a new master of pattern and colour, and the must-have interior designer of the moment.
The late designer’s relationship with colour is now being explored in a new book. Organised into his 10 favourite hues, David Hicks in colour features previously unseen photographs, an introduction by fashion designer Tory Burch, a long-time fan, and text by his son – interior designer Ashley Hicks. Most strikingly, it illustrates Hicks’ epoch-defining skill for tonal styling, which would see him use multifarious shades of a single colour within one room (the more tones, “the better the result”). As Burch quotes in her introduction, his motto was: “Colors do not clash. They vibrate.”
His “essential” interiors tips, gathered from the book and his other writings, give a piquant insight into his unique philosophy. Here’s how to live, the David Hicks way:
Table settings are an easy way to ring the changes in a dining room. They are amusing to do, they reflect the personality of the person doing them and they can revitalise the colour scheme of the room.
All dining tables must be covered. Better if the cloth covers the table to the ground.
All flower arrangements for dining tables must be low. Nothing is more irritating than trying to peer through flowers at the person sitting opposite.
Candles are glamorous at night but never use coloured ones normally, and that includes black. Coloured, oddly shaped and decorated candles are vulgar – natural white wax is such a pleasing colour and texture.
Small ice cubes drive me insane. One should always have big, chunky ice cubes.
Photographs have NO place in a sitting room. They are personal accessories and should be kept for the bedroom where they should be massed on one table.
If you are a collector of objects like decorative eggs, beautifully shaped pebbles, snuff boxes – whatever it is – mass them together on one table. They look so much better grouped than dotted around the room.
I find that in many houses where the furniture, paintings and colour schemes have been planned with infinite care, the accessories are disastrous. By accessories I mean every detail from flower vases to ashtrays, table-linens, cushions or ice buckets. One or two third-rate accessories will mar the look of a room.
The best food in the world has always come out of kitchens that are somewhat disorganised, untidy and not very planned, and these are the kitchens which usually have the most atmosphere.
David Hicks in colour by Ashley Hicks, with a foreword by Tory Burch, is published by Cabana at £85