Friday, January 25, 2013

The Felix Harbord Dining Room

Every time I flip through my copy of Robert Harling's House & Garden Guide to Interior Decoration, I stop and stare at the photo above. According to the book's text, the photo shows "the dining room of the lodge of Ockham Park in Surrey, decorated by Felix Harbord for himself." Unfortunately, there is not much information on the internet about the late Harbord, a British decorator and theater designer. What I did learn, though, was that Harbord was hired by a late owner of Ockham Park, a 17th century house designed by architect Nicholas Hawksmoor, to decorate and renovate the house in 1961. Perhaps some of you can shed additional light on Harbord's work at Ockham Park.

Anyway, I find Harbord's dining room so fanciful.  Both the dining table and console table were covered in Delft blue and white tiles, while Harbord's plates were Meissen.  And despite the fact that the room only measured 9 feet by twelve feet, Harbord's table measured 6 feet long.  He certainly packed a lot of punch into one room. 

It's a shame that the room was photographed in black and white as I suspect the effect of the blue and white tile and tulipiere was really quite dazzling.  But for a taste of what the room might have looked like in color, take a look at the Harbord-inspired pieces that I found on the internet:

If it were slightly taller, this c. 1940s Frits Henningsen Mahogany and Delft Tile cocktail table would be a charming substitute for Harbord's dining table.

Or, you could simply tile the top of a table with some of the beautiful tile from Solar Antique Tiles. The two photos show Dutch patterned tile, but there are many other patterns from which to choose.

Harbord's Meissen plates look similar to these 18th century Meissen Marcolini dinner plates, available at Stillwell House Antiques.

I love Harbord's cabbageware crescent salad plates.  Bordallo Pinheiro made a similar plate, seen above, that can be found from time to time on Replacements.

Although the plate above isn't crescent shaped, this seemed an opportune time to slip in a photo of a cabbageware starter plate that looks adorable.  This and other cabbageware pieces are available through Pigott's Store in Australia.

Mottahedeh's Chatsworth Tulipiere would make a smashing centerpiece, especially against a tiled-top table.

And to watch over the table, this portrait of lady, available from Parc Monceau Antiques, is reminiscent of the paintings in Harbord's room.


  1. Anonymous8:18 AM

    Hello there Jennifer

    'The Inspiration of the Past' by John Cornforth (1985) which you may already have in your no doubt burgeoning library contains a short entry on Felix Harbord. He was a contemporary of Oliver Messel's and, as he did, also dabbled in stage design.


    1. Vronsky, Many thanks! I do have that book, but have not consulted it in a while. I will do so today. I greatly appreciate your comment!


  2. Now I know what to do with eight magnificent XVIIIth century Delft tiles representing a horseman in a landscape : a coffee table!
    So elegant and useful, will be perfect for

  3. Anonymous11:08 AM

    'The Best in European Decoration' Georges and Rosamund Bernier ( L'Oeil Reynal c.1964) credits Harbord with the re-decoration of Cecil Beaton's famous London house in Pelham Place, South Ken.. I don't know who decided on a red bedroom and a black walled living room or whether Beaton gave Harbord a free hand...



    1. Herts, Oh yes, I completely forgot about that, but now that you mention it, I do remember reading that in the Bernier book. I do like the black Beaton living room, but I was never so sure about that red bedroom...

    2. Anonymous12:52 PM

      One morning in 1968, I was photographed by Cecil Beaton at his Pelham Place house. The shots were taken in several locations, including both the black drawing room and the red bedroom. Later on that day, Felix Harbord was invited for lunch, so I was particularly delighted to be included. Before Mr. Harbord arrived, Cecil told me that I was going to meet the most talented decorator since William Kent. I would say that Cecil was ninety-nine percent correct about that.
      Only thirty-two years after Mr. Harbord's death, a New York dealer now describes Mr. Harbord as having been a "'thirties decorator." Not quite so. Mr. Harbord (1906-1981), produced notable work up to his last years.

    3. Anon- A belated responset to your comment- I think it is curious that so few people are familiar with Harbord's work. And I agree with you that he was not a "thirties decorator", especially considering that he continued to produce such notable interiors into the 1960s and, as you say, beyond.

      I am curious to know what Beaton's black drawing room was like in person. Any chance you'll let us know?

  4. Love it because it's so different! And you don't have to worry about wine spills!!

  5. Love this post, Very U, as opposed to non-u...I can hear the elegant repartee at the table as I stare at your picture and read your words.


  6. Anonymous3:56 AM

    Oh Lordy!

    thank you so much for your contribution of the geniuses (long story) of the past!

    This was ONE! Cecil, all of them!

    It is such a GIFT to show us where we can find affordable things with the same "feeling"! There is a reason everyone loved all of this!

    Brilliant post!

    I hope I can figure out all of these sources......because you are absolutely correct!

    the very same ambiance is possible today!! And affordable! And none of it "cheapens" anything!

    What a gift! Thank you Peak of Chic! We would like to have Chic spread everywhere! You ARE TEACHING IT!



  7. Before reading this post I have had my head in a wonderful book called Luggala Days the Story of a Guinness House where
    I had just read about Felix Harbord decorating Luttrellstown Castle for Aileen Plunket.....extraordinary!
    Does anyone remember the wonderful article in World of Inteiors in 1984ish about the above castle , I wonder if that was work or it had long been replaced, somehow I think not.

  8. Anonymous6:25 AM

    Harbord trained as an architect under the Georgian expert Prof. Richardson (see Ampthill House), so Harbord was a perfect choice to add Georgian detail, such a a splendid stucco dining room, to Luttrellstown.



  9. Thank you all for the tips and information. I knew that you would be able to help flesh out this post. Sounds like I've got some research to do!