Staff -- Interior Design, 3/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
David Hicks: Designer
By Ashley Hicks
London: Scriptum Editions, distributed by Trafalgar Square Publishing, $45
212 pages, 396 illustrations (200 color)
When English decorator David Hicks died in 1998 at 69, Time magazine called him the "1960s avatar of interior design, a sworn enemy of chintz." By then, his highly personal style—strictly tailored, richly patterned, startlingly colored, and indeed devoid of all chintz—had been disseminated not only by his rugs, fabric, and wallpaper and his widely published rooms but also in 12 books. David Hicks on Decoration was published in 1966, David Hicks on Living—With Taste in 1968, David Hicks on Bathrooms in 1970, David Hicks on Decoration—With Fabrics in 1971, Living With Design in 1979, Style and Design in 1987, and Cotswold Gardens in 1995. The list goes on.
Now there's more. Hicks's son, Ashley, himself an interior designer, has written a book about his father. It's an intriguing hybrid: part monograph, part biography. The first 70 pages cover Hicks senior's travels, sketches, inspirations, publicity, acquaintances, and family connections. (Charming but also impossibly opinionated and snobbish—which, at this remove, may be part of his fascination—he was exceedingly pleased with having married Lady Pamela Mountbatten, a direct descendant of Queen Victoria.) The second, larger part of the book is a portfolio of his designs, emphasizing those for his own houses and shops. The book might have been even more interesting if its two parts could have been integrated, but it is welcome as it is. Hicks's rarefied life still intrigues, and his vigorous design still thrills.
By Paul Oliver
New York: Phaidon Press, $60
288 pages, 450 illustrations (300 color)
A thorough revision and expansion of a 1987 book, this wide-ranging global survey covers vernacular housing and, frequently, its interiors. Some of the illustrated traditions are flourishing; some are threatened. Many offer interesting alternatives to our own ways of building and living.
Quaker Aesthetics: Reflections on a Quaker Ethic in American Design and Consumption
Edited by Emma Jones Lapsansky and Anne A. Verplanck
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, $35
394 pages, 90 illustrations (20 color)
Quaker aesthetics? Probably pretty similar to Shaker aesthetics, we might assume—and we already know much about the Shakers' appealing furniture and interior design, proto-modernist in its purity. Surprisingly, Shaker aesthetics hardly get a mention in these essays on the parallel artistic universe of the Quakers. The latter is shown as considerably more worldly.
Quaker culture simultaneously cultivated piety and epicurianism, making a distinction between plainness and simplicity. "The negative of plainness was ugliness," a footnote explains. In a silent society, furthermore, furniture played an important role in communication. The Quakers, for all their unpretentiousness, knew a good piece of furniture when they saw it. Often, as specialist Susan Garfinkel writes in one of the collected essays, a "Quaker in good standing has a fancier piece than his not-so-good counterpart."
Sometimes pedantic but often fascinating, this anthology offers a good look at the social roles of furniture, beauty, and connoisseurship in a religious society.