Decorating & Design

October 3, 2011

Interview: Nicky Haslam

He’s sipped cocktails with Cole Porter, designed homes for Mick, Rod and Ringo, stepped out with Andy Warhol and Paris Hilton and created party decor for a lengthy list of British nobility. And though London-based designer Nicky Haslam is incredibly connected (his cousin was the late Diana, Princess of Wales), it’s the laurels of his focused designs that brought him into the limelight. It was close to 40 years ago when Haslam started designing. He founded NH Design in the late 1980s, where he works closely with creative director Colette van den Thillart to create high-end interiors around the globe. (Her London home was in H&H’s January 2011 issue.) Their latest line of fabric and wallpaper is anything but reserved — much like Haslam himself, with his penchant for boldness and ability to mix the historical with the here and now. Besides being a sought-after designer, he has many artistic talents: his interior watercolours can be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum, his byline has appeared in countless magazines, he has published two books and he’s a guest editor for both Tatler and British Vogue. And, at 71, he has zero interest in hanging up his houndstooth hat.

House & Home: I see you’re now blogging.

Nicky Haslam: Oh, yes, I am really enjoying it. I’m getting a deft hand at it.

H&H: I love that you posted a fake diary entry for yourself, actually written by the Daily Mail’s Craig Brown, which leads me to believe you have a cheeky sense of humour. How has that helped your work?

NH: Humour is the most important — an element of design. It’s when you walk into a room and start smiling, but you may not even know why.

H&H: What is your own home like?

NH: I have two. One is just a bolt-hole in London, a place to sleep and change in. It’s dark and cosy. The other is a house in the country. It has pretty rooms, all tiny; it’s an untidy jewel about 40 miles from the city.

H&H: Whose style do you most admire?

NH: Horst, the photographer; he had amazing style. Or people like Christian Dior, Cole Porter. And Elsie Mendl more than anyone.

H&H: How do you define beauty?

NH: I’m not really sure beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It’s something that has an instantaneous effect on you. You are brought up short by it. Like when an arrow hits a target.

H&H: Where do you find inspiration?

NH: Everywhere, really. I am visually conscious and have a photographic memory for detail. It could be a corner of a building, even.

H&H: Do you have any guilty pleasures?

NH: Oh, darling, I love so many things that I shouldn’t — like eggs Benedict, but only once a month.

H&H: Which part of your work do you like best?

NH: Every part, but it’s the clients. I like getting to know them, and some I even get to love and they become great friends.

H&H: What was your favourite project?

NH: The Stanley House in London. It was on the cover of The World of Interiors back in 2006. There is so much of me in that home, but so much of them. It has classic elements but made to be fresh.

H&H: What are you most proud of?

NH: Living to this age.

H&H: Will you ever retire?

NH: Darling, never, never, never!

Author: Catherine MacIntosh

Fritz von der Schulenburg