Sunday, April 28, 2013

Oh, Nicky, You’re So Fine, You Blow My Mind, Hey Nicky!

Nicky Haslam is an in-demand author, incisive lecturer, nascent nightclub singer, daring video artist and artful biographer and writer.

He has been an interior designer of note for four decades—and there is not a thing about chic English country style that he does not know. John Fowler, eat your heart out.

Now he has a lively, witty, and inspiring new book—and everyone who loves ultra-relaxed English country interiors (the kind that look as if dogs sleep on the sofas and chairs and floor, all day)…with great charm, comfort and happiness. 

Nicholas Haslam has been and continues to be a fixture—a handsome one—of the London social and decorating and antiques worlds since he left Eaton. Even today, at the handsome age of 73, he is in and out of the gossip pages, attending parties too divine to mention, writing books, dropping names, setting trends, and inspiring his clients and friends with his bons mots

Now he has published ‘Nicky Haslam’s Folly de Grandeur: Romance and Revival in an English Country House’, with superb photography by Simon Upton. Rizzoli published his book in the US.

It’s the best new book on authentic, relaxed and charming English country style. 

Nicky Haslam spends weekends in an exquisite Tudor hunting lodge. Its petite dimensions are decorated with deft and unerring style.

“The rooms you see in this book are a culmination of a lifetime’s passion for refinement and embellishment. And the house’s soul doesn’t seem to object to the hodgepodge,” notes Haslam.

The book covers five centuries of the house, living with its history, as well as the traditional garden, the furnishings, the comfort, versatility and ease of every corner.

Ever page and each image is a design lesson—from vignettes showing how to make sofas comfortable, to creating tableaux, classical elements, hallways, evening cocktails (his bar is inspiring), and entertaining with panache. 

It’s clear that Haslam is wildly in love with this 1720 house. He is seduced by its quirky Jacobean façade, pleached yews, espaliered apple trees, topiaries, chintzes, and the miniature scale of the interiors. 

Nicholas Haslam offers floor plans and diagrams, and splashes the pages with delcious images of the house through the seasons, and details of the conservatory, picnics, lunches, menus, and his prescriptions for orderly chaos.

There are ‘hand-held’ detailed images of his year’s of collecting, endearing flea market finds, treasures from boot sales, and lots of what he calls ‘soft furnishings’ meaning pillow designs, simple upholstery, curtains, chair backs, improvised lampshades and acres of slipcovers. 

Who is Nicky Haslam?

Nicky wrote ‘Redeeming Features’, a witty memoir, and now pens features for T magazine (New York Times) edited by the brilliant Deborah Needleman, as well as Vanity Fair, and UK House & Garden. He’s insightful, outspoken, highly erudite, and just a bit naughty. Refreshing! 

With Rizzoli’s publication of his new book, Nicky is out and about in Toronto and New York and London, signing with purple ink, greeting great long-time friends like Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera, and earning plaudits and irony in all the London papers.

Readers will get more out of the book—which is in essence the most elegant ‘how to’ book—if they get to know him more. I’ve selected a kind of a Nicky Haslam Anthology for your entertainment and erudition. 

Here are two recent profiles on Nicky that I love. They have his same droll tone and knowing style.
This first one originally ran in the Daily Mail. It’s a very English insider’s view of Nicholas Haslam and ‘his crowd’:

“There can't be a gay icon of the last century that he failed to meet. He revived Mae West's career by running snaps of the old gal in Show Magazine, when he was art director.

He met Dietrich, photographed Zsa Zsa Gabor, watched Dorothy Parker get drunk, and saw Greta Garbo try - and fail - to dodge the train fare to Salisbury.

Joan Crawford took him as her date to the premiere of Cleopatra. And at lunch at a friend's house: 'I was astonished to find that the woman with wildly mascaraed eyes, rather loose teeth, and a flamboyant purple satin turban ... was Gloria Swanson.'

Nicky knew Mick Jagger when he was a builder; hired the sculptor and artist Anish Kapoor when he was an art student; had his hair cut by Vidal Sassoon himself; befriended the weird little illustrator who turned into Andy Warhol; happened to have as a downstairs neighbor a little-known comic called Woody Allen. (He complimented Allen on being a quiet neighbor. 'I only play Marcel Marceau records,' Allen said.)

When London was first Swinging in the Sixties, Haslam was there - hanging out with photographer David Bailey and model Jean Shrimpton.

When New York was in its Sixties pomp, Haslam was there, introducing 'the English look', art-directing Vogue under Diana Vreeland, discovering photographer Diane Arbus, yattering with Truman Capote.

When the canyons above LA were the place to be, Haslam was there, too.

--Sam Leith in the Daily Mail (UK) Nov 19 2009 when ‘Redeeming Features’ was published.

Nicky on Nicky 

From The Observer, London UK, by Stuart Husband, Nov 7 2003.

My personal style?
Either thrift shop, Topman, or Anderson & Sheppard. Most people dress appallingly, but if you go to Topman on a Friday lunchtime, the boys just look astonishing.

I don't smoke.
I gave up 10 years ago. But I love the smell. So I light up and just wave the smoke up my nose.

My hard and fast rule of decorating is:
Always listen to the room. It speaks to you.

I'll take hypnotism over therapy.
I adore being hypnotized – I went to Paul McKenna to stop smoking. With the best hypnotists, you don't even know you've been under. As far as therapy goes, I'm so dopey I don't think I'm complicated enough to make it worth the analyst's while. 

Some Recent Haslam Hits:

Now—in addition to singing (well, speaking lyrics in a dusty voice with orchestral accompaniment) in louche boites and nightclubs, Nicky Haslam is a very in-demand writer, profiler, and commentator. He writes with compassion and a little bite—and one of his best pieces was a recent essay on Lee Radziwill. It was the divine editor, Deborah Needleman who chose him to write this piece, and here is one of my favorite passages—Haslam at his best. 

LEE RADZIWILL PROFILE IN T MAGAZINE, NEW YORK TIMES (find the whole story in the archive.

Typical quote:
“The haunting voice and the almost ethereal figure are Lee Radziwill’s, and they have been a lifelong part of her enduring identity. But those characteristics are not nearly the whole picture. I am confronted by a subtly strong presence and personality, part wreathed in the glamour of the past, part intensely modern in outlook and awareness. Not for her any all-too-easy reminiscences of “those days.” She is, quite clearly, herself.”

--Nicholas Haslam, T magazine, New York Times in a superb cover story on Lee Radziwill, which includes an extraordinary video interview with Radziwill by Sofia Coppola. Must view! Must read!

And of course there is his recent best-selling biography, ‘Redeeming Features A Memoir’ (Knopf 2009).

All images from FOLLY DE GRANDEUR (RIZZOLI) used with permission from Rizzoli.

For more information on Nicholas Haslam and his blog and design firm, 


Tara Dillard said...

Could almost feel the damp in the house from the latest book.

Feel & hear its creaky bits.

Learn from his wisdom and amazed at his generosity. He's not afraid to give-it-away.

That is confidence.

Wish there had been more of the garden.

Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

thank you.....this post.

Anonymous said...

I have loved this house since I was maybe 13!

(Dianne; when was this house first published?
John Fowler lived in it?

I tore it out and framed it! I am guessing when I was in 8th grade??!!

In any case; this is one of the the twentieth century! He even lived in Montana! (any pictures?)

Growing up; these iconic houses remained with me!

; Dawnridge", in Beverly Hills, "The Hunting Lodge";, in England; "Villa Fiorentina" (I damn near drowned treading water trying to see this divine house from the sea!

What a treat that Nicky has written that wonderful book!

I will probably "go up" studying that book with a magnifying glass listening to the frogs and ducks in Santa Barbara! It will take me years to see it all!!

what a wonderful and exciting writer you are!


Your biggest fan!


Tricia Rose Rough Linen said...

I so enjoyed his indiscreet biography!

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


There is much much more of the garden in the is really good and really informational...lots of info. I highly recommend.


This is one of your greatest--and most personal--blog posts. I love it.

I love the sight...of you treading water in the Riviera...trying to see (and I'm guessing almost drowning and not seeing...) La Fiorentina...I've gone house sleuthing on Cap Ferrat and in Antibes...impossible.
You will love this book...and yes...JOHN FOWLER LIVED THERE...and in the book NICKY SAYS...that he kept many of FOWLER'S COLORS!
You must get will swoon. But don't go swimming across the pond looking for it...please. You could make an appointment--he would love to meet you. love DIANE

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


Are you in Mexico! How wonderful.

Yes, I loved the biography...though one did skip parts that were less interesting (wild, wild west...on and on...cowboys and Indians...on and on...Hollywood, on and on)...but there were amazing bits when he was working in NYC in the sixties (incredible)...and there were great parties and names, endless names.
He's witty and charming. Look on his blog...there is a video clip of him signing his book in TORONTO...who knew! see you soon, DIANE

mary said...

I love his blog--always witty and much left to wonder about. Super post.

Colette van den Thillart said...

I had to drop by and say this is just a terrific post, and yes of course im biased, but i've read (and lived with!) a lot on this man i know so well and yet this made me fall in love with him today all over again. Thanks for posting! Colette

peggy braswell said...

NH such a wonderful designer + adore his blog! Must have this book.

A Super Dilettante said...

My dear Diane,

This post made my day! I can't wait to read Nicky Haslam's new book. It's surreal to find out about his new book because I happened to be listening to his Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4 only the other week and he is such a talented and erudite man and I thought to myself, I'd like to have a dinner with him sometimes (I know it's a wishful thinking). I don't think there will be one boring moment with him in any sort of conversations.

In my thought, the Count de Buffon's famous epigram of "The style is the man himself" ("Le style c'est l'homme même") sums him up perfectly.

Both photography and your writings are both stunning and insightful.

Thank you so much Diane.

Best wishes, G

April said...

Amazing how so many of us have loved the same great houses...Fowler's Folly, La Fiorentina (as designed by Billy Baldwin for the Lawrences).

Mr. Haslam had made Fowler's house his own, but understood what made it great in the first place. Thankfully he did feel the need to impose his own mark as so many less aware owners might have done.

Wonderful post. Looking so forward to receiving my copy of Mr. Haslam's book.

April, Just Verte Style

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


WITTY! YES, we must have wit. I like to be frisky!

Thank you for your lovely note. Design does not have to be always serious. DIANE

APRIL-YES, you must get the book and you will read it cover to cover, I am sure. It inspired, it is humble, it is not at all flashy...there is great a weekend visit to his house.

thank you DIANE

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


I received this kind and lovely message from someone I had not previously met: it came out of the blue:

"I love the content, but someone must edit your copy; it needs a grammarian with a sharper eye--not me! "
Carol J. Ward
Tabula Educational Consultants

I'd love your thoughts on Carol's points. Should I in fact engage a 'grammarian with a sharper eye'...(not me, as Carol says).

I'd love your thoughts on this delightful and gracious and charming message. very best DIANE

Arpil said...

Diane, I need to correct a comment I made in my earlier post. I meant to say that "...Mr. Haslam did NOT feel the need to impose his mark...".

My apologies to you for the error and to Mr. Haslam, as well.

April, Just Verte Style

April said...

Not a grammarian but maybe an editor is needed...since I just mis-spelled my own name!!!

April, Just Verte Style

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


You are stylish and spirited and witty--and I love your little dig at the 'grammarian'...I love this.

I love your blog--and I'm sorry you are taking a break...I was going to leave you a message...

do be sure to stay in touch -- and as a fast typer and a person with a lot to do and many deadlines--I can tell you absolutely that I misspell often and sometimes the 'spell check' does the misspelling for me...and sometimes my writing is in British grammar (I am English) and sometimes it is BRITISH SPELLING...
do stay in are a treasure...DIANE

Lynne Rutter said...

how wonderful those interiors are, and so personal feeling. Makes we want big sugar cup of tea in a peach painted room with collections of beloved things and this book on my lap

Windlost said...

OMG Diane, I can hardly wait to read this. How did I miss it. Off to bed but will read over my lunch break tomorrow. Have bookmarked it.

Giant hugs, Terri

Windlost said...

Oh, I did read his Lee Radziwill piece in the NYT and it was such a fun read. I was dying to know more about her (and him) afterwards.

Anonymous said...

I worked for John Fowler in the house and garden have many happy memories of tea in one of the summer houses and rowing JB around the lake on a summers evening so good to see the house has not changed very much Nicky has done it proud and the national trust to.