Monday, January 14, 2019

Veere Grenney: London Interior Designer Spills His Secrets in His Elegant New Design Book

Rizzoli has just published ‘On Decorating Veere Grenney A Point of View’ which is by turns a chatty biography and an overview of his highly successful four-decade international decorating career.

Come with me for a close look at Veere’s handsome new book and learn some of his top design tips.

The vivid Foreword of the book was written by the great Hamish Bowles, a longtime friend and his neighbor in Tangier.

Chapters in Veere’s new book include ‘Made in England’, which recounts his early days as a London antique dealer and a Morocco resident. The second chapter, ‘How I Decorate’ offers vivid insight into how he formulates and crafts rooms for himself and his clients. He focuses on dining rooms, holiday houses, libraries, bedrooms, entertaining rooms and living rooms.

The third chapter, ‘Home at Last’ details his love of Morocco and its culture and vivid history, and his houses in Tangier. It’s clear that Tangier (where he has countless friends) gives him inspiration, a sense of adventure, and a powerful sense of location and his perfect environment.

“In time-honored fashion, Veere Grenney’s early life dealing in antiques lead to a distinguished career in interior design, a career honed by both an informed passion for beautiful old objects and by a lively engagement with late twentieth-century and early twenty-first century life, its comforts and innovations. Veere would look to the masters of the craft of design including David Hicks, Billy Baldwin, Nancy Lancaster, and the protean Cecil Beaton for whom decorating was one of his many aesthetic gifts.”—Hamish Bowles in the Foreword

I was very fortunate to visit Veere Grenney recently at his two houses in Tangier. One house was Maison Cooq, where he spent many years in a jungly garden high above the Straits of Gibraltar.

Veere’s other Tangier residence is his glamorous new villa, with its dramatic new garden, shady loggias, and the stunning terrace, which offers expansive views of the Mediterranean, the Spanish coast, and the dramatic Straits of Gibraltar and Cape Gibraltar.

Veere is a wonderful host, and at any time of the day in Tangier, friends drop by to spend time with him. He always has house guests. And at cocktail hour he has developed a fine tradition of friends stopping at his house to watch the sunset from his broad terrace. Gorgeous.

Veere now spends much of the year in Tangier, just a fast three hours south from London, his home for the last five decades.

As it happens, Veere and I have one key element in common. Yes, we’re both obsessed with decorating, and we both love to travel, and we both spent several years exploring Asia and India and Europe and remote regions of the world.

The good fortune we share is that we both grew up in New Zealand. New Zealand is beautiful and remote, so we both had idyllic childhoods and loved to read British and American Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and House & Garden, which fuelled and inspired out love of fashion, interiors, design and art and houses.

Veere grew up in Auckland and soon headed to London.

As he recounts in this biographical chapters of this book, he gained his foothold on the design world first as an antique dealer at Portobello Road. He was clearly gifted and has a great eye, and from that lively period, he went to work for Mary Fox Linton, a leading design firm in London.

The gregarious and worldly Grenney launched his own firm in 1985….but was soon lured away to work for Colefax and Fowler with Tom Parr. It was then the most English-of-English design firms and known for pared-down, elegant and refined rooms.

“My role at Colefax was to be the agent of modernism and change,” recalled Grenney. And he became the darling of design magazine editors, with every apartment and residence and project photographed and published in all the top magazines.

Eventually he relaunched his own firm, which now works on residences around the world.

Design Tips from Veere Grenney from his new Rizzoli book

1. “I use ‘Hicks Tricks’ all the time. I admire David Hicks and he reigns supreme. I always trim curtains. And subconsciously I’ve learned how to arrange furniture in a living room from Hicks and Billy Baldwin—a sofa and two elbow chairs and two more chairs on either side of them. Hicks was the master at arranging a space for six or eight people to chat and sit together. The end result does not look like a circle, but if you move the chairs a little it works like a conversation circle.”

2. “I think a huge amount of time should be spent on bedrooms, particularly the mattress and the linens. I like bedcovers and simple sheets and blankets, not duvets. Duvets don’t look ordered or elegant, they need to be tucked in and tidy, otherwise the bed always looks unmade.” 

3. “I also dislike pillows or cushions all over the bed. What do you do with them when you are getting into the bed? Throw them on the floor? A bed should look inviting and when it’s covered in pillows, it’s not.”

4. “In the city, fabric on the walls is great for acoustics and always makes a room feel cozier. We upholster the walls ‘blind’ without any braid or trim. When you enter you know that the room feels different, but it is not immediately clear why.”

5. “I’ve always had libraries in my own homes. There are always biographies and volumes of letters and diaries beside my bed. I love books on tables, on chairs and on ottomans and on tabletops. Libraries are places that feel home-like and secure. I don’t like to think of books as disposable things. I think of books as synonymous with civilization. The lovely thing about a library is the atmosphere that comes from so many books.


‘On Decorating Veere Grenney A Point of View’ was written with Ruth Guilding. Photography by David Oliver. Published by Rizzoli.

Images here used with kind permission.

No comments: