01 March 2010

carrying on - at the Hunting Lodge, Part I of Fowler- then and now


 What is to become of the Fowler legacy? Much examination and re-examantion of the designer's work by his devotees and perhaps in the other camp of British historians goes on and will continue. For my part, the more I examine, the more I am convinced of the designer's extraordinary ability to reverence and reject what is best & least desirable about the past. Is there a current designer doing the circuit that is capable? Desirous? Not so many desirous- has John Fowler become-demode? Certainly none of the hot designers we see in the glossies published in the States are reverencing or referencing the Prince of Decorators. There are very few hand painted wall finishes, marbling of baseboards, picking out of moldings, dragging of walls.


during John Fowler's day

John Fowler lived at his beloved Hunting Lodge from 1947 until his death in 1977. The house is now home to bon vivant voyeuristic interior designer- Nicholas Haslam. The Lodge is a 1730s architectural gem in Hampshire Haslam has leased from the National Trust. That John Fowler requested his ashes scattered under a Magnolia stellata in the flower beds near the house- should not go unnoticed and further ties the two decorators if not aesthetically- certainly metaphysically.

How did Haslam find the house? “I knew that Fowler had died and that someone — I’d better not say who — had moved their mistress into it, but he was got out for transgressing the National Trust code.” So he drove down one afternoon and had a poke around the outside, deciding to take it without even looking inside. He has never regretted it.
“The house is so welcoming,” he swoons. “It just loves people. Cecil Beaton and that world have been, and I’ve had some parties. The big hunting party for my 40th birthday was quite fun. It had rained for a week, but June 16 dawned and it was boiling. I had Cole Porter being played, jazz music, dancing, a tent, silver and mauve fireworks.

current resident Nicky Haslam

As readers know, I will absolutely invite darling Nicky to decorate for me when my Normandie docks. I think Haslam has the heart and the smarts to keep John Fowler's work alive. Indeed-as evidenced in his many references, homages in his own work to Fowler -Haslam is ready for the mantle and wants it.

Some say though witty, sparkling -Haslam just doesn't have the seriousness that Fowler tasked into much of his design work. Granted Haslam will never bear the scrutiny of the National Trust- and it would seem that Fowler's work today stands on shaky ground with that august body. They would perhaps declare the Prince a bit passe- too much decorating and not enough investigating-or something like that. The processes historians use today to glean their results on colour and decoration of the past is so highly developed beyond that of the scraping Fowler did- is irrefutable. My question is, Would the Prince have adhered to the findings? That is to be explored another day-perhaps even for more scholarly minds to tackle. I for one- am strongly drawn to what is beautiful, timeless, what is classical- than to what is historically accurate.

This posting represents the first of ongoing devoted to these two princely gentlemen- John Fowler and Nicholas Haslam. In the March  issue-World of Interiors- its "antennae" finds Nicholas Haslam introducing a Venetian-blind pattern to his fabric collection called Random Harvest. The good looking "Shutter Stripe" made of linen is available in ten colourways. It is no surprise to find the Venetian blind pattern was one of John Fowler's favourites. I think at one time Clarence House or Brunschwig had this fabric in their line-they still may. The Shutter Stripe is nothing but one of the most clever fabrics I have ever seen.

Clever I say- Can you argue?
SEE no. 3 below- with Shutter Stripe pictured

Witness this fabric phenomenon as used by John Fowler- his known as the Venetian Blind Chintz-

Venetian Blind Chintz 
paired with a simple block printed woven
at Yarty, a country farmhouse retreat

 A Guest Room at Yarty with Venetian Blind Chintz
at the window with swagging and ruffled edging

The Sitting Room-prior to 1939-Venetian Blind Chintz at the window
John Fowler's King's Road shop

Formally swagged windows with Venetian Blind Chintz
at a flat decorated by John Fowler

 A Rustic Room at King's Road top floor room-late 1930's
Venetian Blind Chintz at the windows
watercolour by Bianca Minns

 King's Road 1936 set up for a party
Venetian Blind Chintz (again)

It appears that Haslam quite loves Mr. Fowler, and  I say bravo! Such a witty fabric like the Venetian Blind seems to tie together everything Haslam and Fowler preached about- reverence of the past, a bit of fantasy and fearlessness.

Haslam at his charming best- My perfect weekend here (Telegraph uk)
Haslam in W here
Haslam ND Design here


  1. Sigh.
    Fowler's Hunting Lodge.
    My dream house.

  2. What Nicky's company calls Shutter Blind is an exact copy of something
    that Clarence House produced several years ago. In fact I've used it in
    2 of the bedrooms here. The original, by Colefax and Fowler, was of a more refined scale, and discontinued back in the early 1990s, to my great disappointment. The staff at Brook St told explained that there were difficulties to do with the production of their design~hard to fathom, considering the simplicity of the pattern.

  3. Very evocative Little Augury madam. John Fowler is something of a phoenix. He will continue to rise from ashes. Nicholas Haslam might be the one and it and of course it would have to be a Brit. Never an American. Everything is too rushed over there.

  4. Toby Worthington, thanks for straightening out the Clarence House vs B&F question. Is the CH still available? I wonder if the archives were an issue somehow at CF, maybe an interesting question to check into all round. pgt

  5. Anon.I am a great admirer of John Fowler. I love Haslam's work, some may say he is a lightweight in comparison-but honestly-who else out there seems interested in looking back to his work. Nobody is that serious about their work today-they are trying to hard to fill up a portfolio for a book, or another one. The really beautiful homes I see are created by the owners that have style plus (see my Slim Keith post)- pgt

  6. I'm totally ready for another John Fowler Moment, so the re-issue of Venetian Blind chintz couldn't come at a better time. And if the scale of the new version is larger than the orginal Fowler design--which design may have been dictated by the 45" looms of the day--well, that just echoes Fowler's own tendency to skew historic authenticity in the direction that he already wanted to go anyway. After a decade of deprivation & shortages, Britain was ready for a spot of fun, and if Fowler's colorful, quasi-historical decors provided that better than a pedantically accurate palette of cream, fawn, stone & drab, then he provided an Important Public Service.

    Anyway, the best aspect of the Venetian Blind chintz is that you only need three yards--versus a few dozen yards per window--to get a good effect, which is why I'll be using this stuff at the windows in my new apartment.

  7. Magnaverde, so right about the width of that fabric. So glad too that you are thinking along the same lines. I may have to use the Haslam Shutter Blind at a client's, surely I can find a couple of windows there are about 60 to deal with. Keeping the Fowler quasi History alive in the best of company-pgt

  8. Little augury - thank you for introducing me to this house, so to speak. It looks quite beautiful and very much at peace with its surroundings if you know what I mean. Excellent entry - thanks for sharing. Hannah

  9. Simply two entirely different men - John Fowler set the standard, Nicky Haslam has brought it through a more livable, current evolution. Never ask me to pick - that would be impossible as they are both astounding for their own reasons.
    Good Post again, Little Augury. You are fast becoming one of my favorites!
    Many thanks!

  10. Pass the smelling salts, please. I am hyperventilating. It's a side affect of being a fabric/curtain whore. So sorry for the interruption.

  11. Upon closer inspection of the NH blinds it would appear that they are close copies of the original Colefax and Fowler design, rather than the version done by Clarence House (no longer in production). Sorry for the confusion.

  12. Hannah- so glad you like the house, it is so special and especially for devotees of Fowler. Though the interiors may have changed somewhat- NH kept much of the finishes etc the same, thank goodness. More about that on another post. I am going to check on your blog.

  13. Cynthia- you are so right, I am just hoping that NH will continue to keep his style alive. Some may feel he isn't as worthy, but my feeling is his enthusiasm and love for Fowler's work outweighs that. thanks for the compliment.pgt

  14. Home- yes indeed, hold on there will be more Haslam, Fowler fabric swagging and jaboting! pgt

  15. Mr Worthington, please send pictures of your fabric I would A Dore it! pgt

  16. I love both these designers. I long for a return of interesting window treatments. Let us hope they come back soon. I worked for Keith Irvine, who started his career with John Fowler. He also was a founder of Clarence House. I'm extremely proud to be a little bit in that bloodline. The great traditional designers are the most creative, imaginative and wild, really. Just wonderful.

  17. la: OT,but have you seen this monstrosity yet? I haven't seen anything this creepy since the issue of Nest where they had some guy's Las Vegas end-times bunker. It looks like a damn showroom at Schewel's.

  18. I keep a photo of this house at my desk at all times...what a marvelous little bit of gothick fantasy.

    Re: the authenticity issue. It's always such a fine line. Fowler was definitely decorating, and his scholarship was shaky--but oh, what decorating. Even in his day there were those who looked askance at some of his decisions. But oh, how I hope the Trust is forward thinking enough to keep a few houses in their Fowler rig for it's own sake. If they don't, history proves they'll someday regret it and then spend buckets reproducing a Fowler scheme they should have left alone.

  19. The architecture is beautiful - I love the English country garden.

  20. little augury --

    I can't remember ever seeing such enthusiasm for Fowler's pre-war, pre-Nancy Lancaster work.

    As for Nicky Haslam, he's not someone the National Trust is going to let in the front door. David Mlinaric -- if anyone -- is Fowler's successor in that regard.

    Great blog, keep it up.

  21. That Hunting Lodge...I need to see more!

  22. Dandy- I am in full agreement with you! I have the Keith Irvine book and so along in the footsteps of and stepping off the path to his own beautiful yellow brick road. There is a wealth of un blogged about talent, classicism, and I think perhaps discretion on the designer's part. You are so lucky to have that royal bloodline. pgt

  23. Down East- so very well said. So glad you said it- recognizing the accurate is one thing and the other genius. Brilliant commentary, thank you of putting it so perfectly.pgt

  24. Sanity Fair and the Zhush- thanks and return for more of the interiors and perhaps some of the garden- of which Fowler was also master of.pgt

  25. Yes DM indeed- He does seem to have such zest in the residential interiors I have seen published (the recent book) and it was read cover to cover. The NHT sites were a bit yawn. but as I said I err on the side of beautiful decoration-but I suppose not what that is all about. The comment left but Down East Dilettante puts it beautifully. After reading the NH bio- he may not want in (the NHT front door!) I admit- I am thoroughly drawing upon as much of Fowler's work that bears out the Haslam link. I do so love that fabric, and some of the swish regency is fun- more to come over the next few weeks, months So stay with me, pgt

  26. The National Trust recently acquired a pair of watercolours of interiors at the Hunting Lodge, by Alexandre Serebriakoff. I am working on getting them photographed and hope to post them on my blog soon.

    Fowler did quite a lot of work for the National Trust, for instance at Clandon Park, Sudbury Hall and Wallington. He is important to us as one of the first people to do research into historic interiors.

    As The Ancient says, David Mlinaric followed in Fowler's footsteps, and he did some really subtle work at Nostel Priory.

  27. Emile, I will be watching for these on your blog-that I just looked in on. I can not wait to return and get caught up to date. pgt

  28. Years and years ago the most famous Venetian-blind fabric was called "Les Jalousies," and it was made by Nobilis. Madeleine Castaing used it frequently. So did Yves Halard and his wife, who used it in the entrance hall of their apartment in Paris in the 1950s.

  29. OMIGOD! and SHEESH!
    What a boundless treasure you are LA!! and your compatriots!

    I love, love, (since I was 15 or so, honestly) this "venetian blind" or, much better "Les Lalousies" fabric! (49 years ago!)

    N Halslam "misses the boat"; very , very seldom. But he did recently when he put that fabric on a chair.
    John Fowler did a double-spin in his grave. No No NO!! Not on a chair!

    Only on a window.....any window anywhere!!!



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