Dear Diva Readers,
top: 5px; float: left; color: white; background: #781300; border: 1px solid darkkhaki; font-size: 60px; line-height: 50px; padding-top: 1px; padding-right: 5px; font-family: times;”>While in London on an Antiques Diva & Co tour with a journalist recently, we stopped into Colefax & Fowler for a private tour of the showroom and a look at some of the archives from this prestigious decorating firm. While it was a treat to see some of the original design boards used by the firm for high-end international clients, it was also interesting to meander through the rooms of the shop, which once had a life as a town house.
Each room of the rambling building is decorated with the company’s highly sought after wallpapers. But a pleasant surprise is that the rooms are also sprinkled with some of the firm’s bespoke pieces and antiques they offer for sale. From antique chest of drawers and sofas to mirrors and engravings, the hand-selected pieces are displayed in thoughtful groupings as if Sibyl Colefax or John Fowler had arranged them.
Yet the rooms are not exactly 1940’s English Country style— as one thinks of Nancy Lancaster’s interiors. Instead they are decorated in what you might call “updated traditional”, with perhaps a bit less decorative items. In other words, every surface on every table isn’t filled with objects! Nevertheless, these rooms exude comfortable, relaxed elegance just as they once did when John and Nancy worked in them.
What I love about the Colefax & Fowler showroom is that it proves that antiques CAN be used in a modern way. You don’t have to choose just one end of the spectrum—chintz and tchotchkes or sleek and minimal. You can decorate a space with traditional principles but in an updated fresh way, still using classic antiques of course! And for me, that’s the way of the future.
The Antiques Diva®
Dear Diva Readers,
top: 5px; float: left; color: white; background: #781300; border: 1px solid darkkhaki; font-size: 60px; line-height: 50px; padding-top: 1px; padding-right: 5px; font-family: times;”>While the majority of my time spent on tour with clients is jotting from antiques warehouse to flea markets to by-appointment-only antique stores helping our clients source the right pieces, sometimes we get special requests from press clients. We recently took an American journalist on an Antiques Diva & Co experience in London and one of our stops was the historic showroom of distinguished designers Colfax & Fowler.
With a special appointment, we were guided around the first 2 floors of the showroom by archivist, Barrie McIntyre. What a treat it was to meander from room to room having Barrie tell poignant stories about the decor of each space, highlighting the names of wallpaper patterns and fabric collections. After passing through a small corridor on the second floor (or the first floor as it would be known in the UK, since the ground level floors are typically known as floor zero), we came to a beautiful, high-ceilinged drawing room radiating an egg-yolk yellow from the walls and curtains in the afternoon light. Yes, we had completed our pilgrimage to Nancy Lancaster’s iconic “Yellow Room.”
To give you a little history, Nancy Lancaster purchased Sybil Colfax’s decorating business and, as a result, inherited business partner John Fowler. The two were described by Nancy’s aunt, Lady Astor, as “the most unhappy unmarried couple in England.” What a duo they must have been! Their business, however, consisted of an inventiveness which was well received after the second World War.
In 1957, Nancy decided to live above the shop on Avery Row in London. Together, she and John transformed the private quarters into a sort of stage set for their designs. In a way, I suppose, they were able to show clients how a home decorated by them would feel. Once the drawing room was painted a rich color of yellow and the baseboards given a faux marble paint treatment, it was filled with an eclectic mix of 18th, 19th and 20th century English and continental furniture, mirrors, paintings, china and other decorative objects. The result was a space that was both grand and comfortable all at once. This room became and still remains one of the most renowned rooms in London.
Fast forward to our lovely afternoon spent there with Barrie who has a knack for telling stories and making these characters come to life. He pulled out a box containing stacks of samples and room boards that were put together for some of the firms most distinguished clients. We were treated to seeing the original fringe and wallpaper that was designed for clients such as Bunny Melon, Mrs. J.F. Kennedy and Baroness Pauling de Rothschild. Can you imagine!?
Before leaving this inspiring room, we were able to sneak a peek behind a set of double doors at the far end of the room, which hide a small kitchen. The Yellow Drawing Room also boasts gorgeous views of the picturesque courtyard below, which beckons one to come down and enjoy a nice cup of tea.
I cannot be more grateful to Colfax & Fowler and Barrie for allowing us a glimpse into the life of one of the 20th century’s top decorating talents. I’ve come away with inspiration and a greater appreciation for thoughtful design.
The Antiques Diva®