Wednesday, October 17, 2007

John Fowler: Prince of Decorators




I just got through reading the upcoming release, John Fowler: Prince of Decorators. If you're a student of interior design or design history, a lover of the English country look, or someone who is inspired by photos of beautiful interiors, then you truly must read this book. Written by author Martin Wood, this work is also the perfect companion piece to his previous book, Nancy Lancaster: English Country House Style.

Of course, Fowler is best known for creating the English country house look around the time of World War II (with some help from Lancaster, of course). This look, which has often been imitated to varying degrees of success, is one that is adored by some, admired by many, and dismissed by a few. What's important to remember, though, is that when Fowler developed this style, it was actually rather revolutionary. It was certainly in stark contrast to the modern look that was prevalent prior to WWII. It was also a novel way in which to decorate a stately British home, which tended to be the type of home on which Fowler worked.

The foundation of the English country look was beauty and comfort- two very noble design goals. Fowler achieved both by using comfortable and sometimes humble fabrics, charming prints, and painted furniture. This was truly a far cry from the stiff fabrics and mahogany furniture that had been the standard for these great homes. It was "good" design, not historical accuracy, that Fowler strove for.

I think that what makes this book a success is that Wood provides the reader with a thorough yet interesting account of Fowler's career. There is certainly enough information to satisfy those of us who love design history. For those who are more entertained by the photos- well, there are plenty of those too.


The drawing room of the Bruces at the Albany, London, designed by Fowler. Christopher Spitzmiller cites this home as the inspiration for his New York apartment.


Another celebrated Fowler room- the saloon at Daylesford, designed in the 1950s.


The drawing room at Hambleden. According to the author, this room has remained the same color for 40 years, proving how timeless Fowler's designs were.

21 comments:

  1. Even though these rooms are a bit frilly for me, I appreciate the balance of formality and comfort. These rooms all seem very inviting. I think the warm yellow would be nice to come home to after a dreary English day. The only things missing are a couple of King Charles Spaniels lounging about. Thanks for the book review!

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  2. I just adore his use of yellow. Since I have the Lancaster book and the earlier Colefax and Fowler, I was thinking about waiting until Christmas for this one, but your review has peaked my interest!

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  3. Brilliant- One thing that I forgot to mention is that even if the look is too traditional/frilly for some, there are some great details in the rooms that could work with other styles. You should see his window treatments!!!! Unreal!

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  4. Courtney- I think you'll like the book. Let me know what you think, once you get it :)

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  5. Anonymous12:27 PM

    Arcane information, but good to know ... the Bruces had a flat at Albany, not "the" Albany ... those in the know never use the article ... it's just Albany ...

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  6. Anon- Thanks for the clarification!

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  7. THIS IS TIMELESS DECORATION
    WHAOUH

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  8. Not to put too fine a point -but it is never an apartment, it is a set at Albany.
    I knew this book would be well worth the wait. Hard to imagine that certain interior desecrators actually claim JF as an inspiration. Sacrilege!

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  9. Those Colefax and Fowler rooms never lose their charm - timeless! I have the earlier book, but would love to add this one as well.

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  10. I think you'll enjoy it Anne!

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  11. HOBAC- Between you and Anon, I won't embarrass myself next time I'm in London. I walked by Albany last year and was dying to get inside to see a set!

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  12. Just yesterday I was thinking how the English as go to hospital and we go to the hospital, why is that? do they also to opera or go to races? jw.

    Jennifer - how did you get your book? where is MINE????????

    got the Ralph and Elle decor yesterday, I would say skip both, the Lauren is just one big ad, hardly none of his houses, and tons of his picture. The Elle Decor is just more of the same, nothing new at all.

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  13. Thanks for the recommendations, I'll just add it to my ever growing amazon wish list...doesn't seem to matter how many books I buy, the list never seems to diminish!

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  14. Anonymous10:37 AM

    Cote de Texas, The Elle Decor book is a compilation of the magazine's features over the years, just like the new Vogue book, so it would obviously be "nothing new at all."

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  15. Hi anonymous - I do realize the Elle Decor is a compilation, it's just that there are so very many books newly available, that it helps to have someone who bought it give their opinion. Those of us who are trying to figure out the best books to spend our hard earned money on, considering the multitude of titles coming out this season, like to know - shoud I buy this one or that? Take for instance the Lauren book - it's in a covered box, you can't glance through it before you buy it. And if you buy books from Amazon, you really are handicapped, therefore blogger opinions help to navigate through the decision making process. Shelter magazines release books all the time and they aren't always compilations, in fact Elle Decor has released books that weren't. This Elle Decor book was highly talked up pre publication - I was just trying to say that if you keep your Elles don't bother, you already have the book in total. Perhaps, for you, I should have clarified, that if you want to trash your magazines, this would be a great buy and would take up a lot less room than all the old magazines. Thanks for bringing my attention to it!

    Joni

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  16. Anonymous9:22 PM

    Joni, the new Vogue book is precisely the same, a compilation of individual Vogue articles over the last decade. So if you've saved your Vogues, you don't need to buy it either. Many people, however, don't save all their magazines (where would you put them?), so presumably a nicely edited compilation might do nicely.

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  17. Anonymous9:28 PM

    Re Daylesford (which was later owned by Baron Hans Heinrich von Thyssen-Bornemisza and redecorated extravagantly by Renzo Mongiardino and has since been redone by Colefax & Fowler for the present owners) ... check out the amazing wallpapers of Adelphi Paper Hangings at adelphipaperhangings.com ... company co-owner Christopher Ohrstrom grew up at Daylesford in the 1960s, when his Texan mother was the wife of the 2nd Viscount Rothermere ...

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  18. Anon- Wonder what it was like to grow up at Daylesford? I love Adelphi- wrote a post about them back in July, if you're interested:
    http://thepeakofchic.blogspot.com/2007/07/adelphi-paper-hangings.html

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  19. Anonymous7:03 AM

    J'adore Adelphi.

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  20. Lissa2:49 PM

    What I'd like to know is - how/where did you get your copy of the book?!

    I pre-ordered through Amazon back in July and just received an email saying the publication date has been moved. Talk about disappointment, I've been looking forward to this book for months!

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  21. Lissa- That's too bad. I wonder why it's been delayed???
    I have a nice friend in the know who got me a copy :)
    I think, though, when you get it you'll really love it.

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