Monday, September 28, 2009

David Hicks: A Life of Design

One fall book release that I have anxiously been awaiting is David Hicks: A Life of Designby Ashley Hicks. And right about now, many of you may be rolling your eyes and thinking "yet another book on David Hicks?" I realize that the Hicks revival of a few years back has run its course, so why this book?

First, this book has much more biographical information than the previous Ashley Hicks project. That book gave you a glimpse into the life of David Hicks, but this tome really fleshes out the story of how Hicks got his start and created his design empire. Hicks was certainly ambitious (perhaps one could say aggressively so), and when opportunity knocked on his door, he didn't hesitate to make the most of it. Perhaps that's not such a bad thing as we are still talking about Hicks today.

The other point I'd like to make is that Hicks' work went beyond that mod, graphic, zingy look that he is so associated with. Much of Hicks' later work is actually restrained, elegant, and even at times subdued. I think that this phase of his career is often overlooked, and it's one that should be explored by young designers.

Granted, many of the photographs included in this book appeared in Ashley Hicks' earlier book as well as many of David Hicks' own books. However, there are Hicks interiors that I have never seen before, especially those of his early career. If you are a Hicks fan, or if you collect monographs of great designers, I think this book will be a worthy addition to your collection.

The ballroom at Claridges transformed for an event by David Hicks and this then business partner Tom Parr, c. 1957.

A Hicks Parr room from the 1950s.

The Belgravia drawing room of Princess Guirey, designed by Hicks in the 1950s.

One end of the Long Gallery at Baronscourt, the seat of the Duke of Abercorn, c. 1978.

(All images © David Hicks: A Life of Design by Ashely Hicks, Rizzoli, 2009.)


  1. Thank you Jennifer.
    I had begun to wonder how this new book differed from the book published in 2003 and authored by Ashley Hicks; or how in fact the text could be improved upon when it was so disarmingly candid
    and clear about David Hicks as a personality and a force of nature. Well, I can see at a glance. Better cover design, rarer photographs and, one would then assume, improved layout.

  2. Thank you so much for this information. I will really be on the look out for this book.

  3. The Hicks-Parr room looks quite lovely and vibrant. FYI Princess Guirey: She was Vincent Astor's niece, the former Sylvia Obolensky. So she had more than a few good pieces of 18th-century furniture on hand for him to deploy, since her grandmother Lady Ribblesdale (ex Mrs John Jacob Astor) was a noted collector and client of Jansen.

  4. You've convinced me Jennifer -- I need it for my library!

  5. I am a fan so I would love to add this to my collection of interior books. I always find something new and something to learn in these reads....xv

  6. Jennifer-

    You are right: Hicks is much more than H prints and easy-to-copy geometric carpets.
    Excellent point, Jennifer, that David Hicks geometric prints and carpets and textiles have been opted by everyone. He is the 'inspiration' du jour and the copies are now at the level of practically Wal-Mart (next season, perhaps)...and have been monetized and transmogrified by companies like Jonathan Adler and many others.
    Hicks's work was much richer, wittier, and more eccentric and shocking (for its time) than this down-to-the-common-denominator design today would suggest.
    I can't wait to read the book.
    Hicks was a witty fellow--with a great, great roaring laugh that was quite shocking--and he would find it most amusing and dubious (in an ethical way) to see all the copies of his work on the High Street.

  7. Thanks for the "heads up"; I shall certainly be adding it to my collection.

  8. There can never be too many books on David Hicks, IMHO.

    Thanks for the heads-up.

  9. I was visiting relatives at Barons Court about a year or so ago ... they haven't touched a thing and it still looks magnificent.

  10. I'm just finishing this 2009 release by Ashley Hicks about his father. Thanks for you terrific post about the book and for sorting out Hick's contribution to design. New assessments are always welcome to keep design inspiration flowing.
    I just posted on my blog about Hicks' country home, Britwell, in Oxfordshire. There is a great description of the estate on a website I link to describing the house and buildings in detail. Thanks for your post. I love your blog. have been a lurker/reader for years. This is my first post. Hope you take a look at my home decor blog,
    best, jeff