You know how I love 1930s design, and I really don't think that a week goes by in which I don't reference the era. But what I've realized over the last few months is that while I feel as though I have a firm grasp on American design from this decade, I'm not quite as comfortable writing about British design between the World Wars. Oh sure, I know quite a bit about John Fowler and slightly less about Sibyl Colefax. But what about Derek Patmore? Basil Ionides? Esmé Gordon? Do these names ring a bell?
Reading Syrie Maugham a few weeks ago made me realize just how little I know about this period in British design. Pauline Metcalf's book obviously educated me on the finer points of Maugham's work, and for that I am grateful. But more importantly, it made me want to learn more- a lot more- about the talented English designers who decorated at this time.
I decided that who better to turn to than the sophisticated and erudite Nick Harvill to provide me with a reading list to help me with my education. In case you're not familiar with Nick, the West Hollywood based antiquarian book dealer has an amazing website, Nick Harvill Libraries, that concentrates on all kinds of wonderful antique, vintage, and out of print books about interior design, architecture, travel, and society- just to name a few subjects. I could spend hours perusing his website. (Wait, I do!) That in and of itself is an education. Nick was kind enough to compile a list of books that he feels will assist me in becoming well-versed in Anglo design from between the wars.
So, with great appreciation to Nick, here is the list accompanied by a few photos from each book and an explanation as to why he recommends each one. Enjoy, and start reading!
(To purchase the books listed below or to learn more about them, please click on each link; they will take you to Nick's website. To read more about Nick's favorite books, click here to read my post about his top ten book list.)
Twentieth Century Decoration, Stephen Calloway, 1988. Nick feels that this book should be in every design library. I agree; I just need to get my copy. What's in it? Cecil Beaton's Circus Bedroom at Ashcombe (with caricatures on the walls done by Oliver Messel and Rex Whistler); Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant's Music Room; Lady Leucha Warner's living room as decorated by Ronald Fleming; and Great Hundridge, the home where Nicky Haslam was raised.
The Circus Bedroom at Cecil Beaton's Ashcombe.
Lady Leucha Warner's Living Room as decorated by Ronald Fleming.
London Interiors, From the Archives of Country Life, John Conforth, 2000. This is actually one of the few British design oriented books that I own, and I feel it's worth owning for the photos of Chips Channon's Amalienburg Dining Room alone. Thank goodness that many of the featured interiors were photographed as quite a few did not survive WWII. Iconic rooms such as Lady Mountbatten's Boudoir (replete with Rex Whistler murals) and Diana Cooper's Bathroom as well as work by prominent decorators Lord Gerald Wellesley and Oliver Hill are included.
Chips Channon's Amalienburg Dining Room that was inspired by the Bavarian Rococo Amalienburg Palace in Munich. Unfortunately, it did not survive the war.
An Oliver Hill designed bathroom for Mr. Robert Hudson. According to Harvill, Hill was a favorite designer of Country Life magazine, appearing in its pages often. The only designer/architect featured more often was Sir Edwin Lutyens.
The Thirties, British Art and Design Before the War, Joanna Drew, 1980. This catalogue accompanied an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery that focused on British decor, furniture, jewelry, and other aspects of design from the 1930s. It must have been some exhibit as Tilly Losch's bathroom was actually reconstructed for the 1980 show.
Actress Tilly Losch's bathroom designed by Paul Nash
The Modern English Interior by R. Randal Phillips, 1939. According to Nick, this book features English rooms from the 1920s and 30s that reflect "modernism as applied to British tradition." Work by Basil Ionides, Sir Edwin Lutyens, and Philip Tilden are included.
A Sitting Room by Sir Edwin Lutyens
Basil Ionides designed this room with landscape paper panels.
Decorative Art, The Studio Year Book, 1943-1948; Rathbone Holme, editor. The work covered in this anthology of design in both England and abroad reflects the effects of WWII. Wartime rationing and high post-war taxes resulted in decoration that was lacking in much of the luxury that was found in later British design.
An exhibition living room designed by Esmé Gordon.
Calf hide covered barrel chairs by Modernage Furniture Corporation.
A Decorators Notebook by Derek Patmore, 1952. Though written in the early 1950s, Patmore's book- intended as a how-to decorating guide- includes images and examples of his work during the interwar years.
A Patmore designed bar for the Earl of Jersey. The bar was made of cut-glass bricks, and the photo mural depicted snapshots of Spanish bull-fights.
An illustration of a woman's bedroom with Baroque motifs.
(Image at top: a Regency library by Lord Gerald Wellesley, a major Vogue Regency decorator.)