Friday, March 27, 2015

A Long Time in Coming: the Geoffrey Bennison Monograph

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.

Bennison photographed at his Pimlico Road antiques shop, 1981.

The library in Peter Glenville's Manhattan apartment, which was decorated by Bennison beginning in the mid-1960s. Glenville's close friend, Bennison continued to work on the apartment up until his death in 1984.

One of Bennison's most high-profile projects was for publisher Lord Weidenfeld. In this photograph, Weidenfeld can be seen in his Bennison-decorated Riverside apartment in Chelsea.

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.


  1. Splendid. The real deal. Beautifully decorated rooms which too are welcoming.

  2. Craftsmanship, Quality, and Connoisseurship. We need much more of this in design, and Bennison had it in spades!

    The Arts by Karena

  3. i was looking at this book last weekend. wow. it's stunning.

  4. Bennison, always heard of him in UK + can't wait to get his book.

  5. I particularly like the Manhattan apt - ADORE that pair of small chairs and the sofas. Some of his decorating is a bit too grand for my taste, but this is perfection.

  6. Mark Hampton once quoted Geoffrey Bennison as saying, "Why not be cosy?"
    And that seems to me the secret of Bennison's beautiful rooms. They're grand, to be sure-- but inviting, and never coldly formal or academically correct. 'Cosy grandeur,' was his trademark, and I for one am all for it.