Like fellow designers Henri Samuel and François Catroux, the late British decorator Geoffrey Bennison's name is not as well known in America as, say, Billy Baldwin or Dorothy Draper. And I'd be willing to bet that some designers don't realize that Bennison Fabrics is named for the designer, whose reproductions of 18th and 19th-century textiles, which Bennison used often in his design work, form the nucleus of the collection. But Bennison deserves to be better known here in the States, for he was remarkably talented and a true "decorator's decorator", one who was equally admired as an antiques dealer. This might explain why there is so much buzz over the long-awaited monograph, Geoffrey Bennison: Master Decorator, which was written by his former assistant and Bennison Fabrics founder and president, Gillian Newberry.
There is so much positive that I can say about this book, because it's a master class in first-rate decorating. A Geoffrey Bennison-interior never flaunted its superb and often singular furnishings and finishes. Instead, it presented itself as comfortable, unpretentiously elegant, and even a little time-worn. Bennison effected a style of decorating that on the surface looked so effortless, and yet, a great deal of effort was involved in achieving it. And Bennison was a marvel at conjuring up that most elusive and hard-to-create quality: atmosphere.
If you are a design student or a new-to-the-profession designer, this book will not only introduce you to the work of one of the twentieth century's most talented designers, but it will also educate you about the significant roles that quality, craftsmanship, and connoisseurship should play in interior design. And if you're an old-hand in design, this book will remind you of the days when all three qualities were considered noble pursuits.
These two photos show the Paris dining room of Princess Firyal of Jordan. Bennison considered his work for Princess Firyal to be some of his best work.
Image credit: © Geoffrey Bennison: Master Decorator by Gillian Newberry, Rizzoli New York, 2015.