Above the shop

As the dec­o­rat­ing firm Sibyl Cole­fax & John Fowler moves to Pim­lico Road, the de­sign of Nancy Lan­caster’s up­stairs draw­ing room is now a dis­tant (and very yel­low) mem­ory

Country Life Every Week - - Interior Design The Inside Track -

ACOUPLE of years ago, I went to a fashion brand’s lav­ish din­ner for a fa­mously sexy and beau­ti­ful Span­ish film star who, hav­ing given her name to their line of lin­gerie, was show­ing it off with a plung­ing dé­col­letage. This gor­geous dis­play I scarcely noticed, be­ing com­pletely dis­tracted by the room in which we were eat­ing: Nancy Lan­caster’s fa­mous ‘but­tahyel­lah’ draw­ing room on Avery Row, Brook Street, W1.

The room had been stripped of its fur­ni­ture and set up as a grand din­ing room, beau­ti­fully can­dlelit but with no real char­ac­ter be­yond its deep­yel­low walls. As I sat there, sur­rounded by fashion folk who’d never heard of Nancy or the room, I dreamed my­self into the old pictures of it as lived in by her, full of flow­ers from her gar­den at Hase­ley, crowded with com­fort­able fur­ni­ture and end­less pairs of ec­cen­tric, beau­ti­ful things.

From her first mar­ried home in New York, where she and Ron­nie Tree rented Og­den Cod­man’s im­pec­ca­ble Louis XVI chic town house at 7, East 96th Street, through Kel­marsh (dec­o­rated by Mrs Bethell) and Ditch­ley (done by Boudin) to houses done with John Fowler, start­ing with Charles Street in May­fair, Nancy was not so much a de­signer as the best kind of client: one with an in­cred­i­ble eye for lovely things, the imag­i­na­tion to make magic hap­pen and the nat­u­ral el­e­gance to live beau­ti­fully in the re­sult.

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