Every once in awhile I encounter rooms I’ve never seen before or a designer whose work I’m not familiar with. But this is very rare, as I’ve been consuming interior design and decoration since I was about the age of thirteen. The bookcase in my study is chock-a-block with shelter magazines dating back to the 1970’s – House & Garden, Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, The World of Interiors, and Maison & Jardin, as well as more recent publications, such as Veranda. And then there are the many books on architecture, design, decoration and art scattered throughout the house – categorized into bookcases, piled on tables and stacked on the floor, always at the ready. So it surprised me to encounter the name of John Siddeley. Does it ring familiar for you? I can’t recall ever coming across the name or the man’s work … until I purchased an out-of-print book titled Interior Views: Design at Its Best by Erica Brown, published in 1980. I had never heard of it either, which surprised me as I have scoured vintage book stores for years collecting as I went along. I still get that thrill of discovering a book on design that I did when I just began collecting them.
Interior Views: Design at Its Best presents a collection of up-and-coming and august interior designers and decorators at a turning point in interior design, the late 1970’s. The rules were being broken and reinterpreted and interior design as a career was taking off. John Siddeley was an established interior designer who had worked on the Swedish Embassy, the design of the Harlequin Suite at the Dorchester Hotel and the Park Lane Hotel in Picadilly. In 1971 he succeeded his father as the third Baron Kenilworth. His own London flat, featured in the book, expressed a lighter, leaner and more eclectic approach to interior design, one that was coming into vogue.
His living room, in the top photo, expressed his belief that “comfort brings with it relaxation, and that’s what home is all about” and his penchant for mixing, what he called, “ancient and modern”, old and new. The result is an eclectic mix of English and French antiques with modern masters set within a neutral envelope of warm white – a color he recommended to anyone who couldn’t afford to fully realize their dreams and aspirations at one go. White also allows disparate elements to coexist more comfortably. For his flat Siddeley chose a handsome grid-pattern carpet throughout to unify the rooms – which is repeated in the waffle pattern of the bath towels used to cover the pair of Mies van der Rohe chairs. What makes this room, in particular, intriguing is the non-chalance of piles of books on the floor and a painting leaning against a brass pedestal. These personal caprices give the space life and a feeling of evolution, much like an artist’s atelier.
Siddeley had the walls and ceiling of the entrance hall covered in gray men’s suiting, which he hung, salon style, with framed engravings and prints.
The bedroom combines two of my favorite styles: the clean lines of a neutral contemporary bed contrasting the elegant curves of an ebonized klismos-style Regency side chair. The ivory-veneered four poster bed, with its stylized pediment headboard, was Siddeley’s own design.
For his bathroom he covered the walls and ceiling with a brown-and-cream small rep pattern, popular at the time, to make the small bathroom appear larger. The Victorian wicker chair feels right out of an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show or Rhoada!
In his 50’s Siddeley moved to New York, where he worked for McMillen Inc., and as a food editor for the Paris edition of Vogue magazine, as well as contributor to Gallery, House and Garden and Interiors magazines. Sadly, John Siddeley passed away of a heart attack at the age of 57 in December of 1981. So much potential shattered by a life cut short. Hopefully, in the future, I will encounter more of Baron Kenilworth’s eye for style.
Interior Views: Design at Its Best by Erica Brown, 1980. Photography by Michael Dunne.