Sometimes I start things without giving them due attention. My Throwback Thursday series might just be one such example. Posting “vintage” – and I use the word loosely – interiors is hardly breaking my mold. I post about classic and timeless interiors from the past – traditional or modern, and everything in between – more than I do current projects. While there is much to admire in the world of interiors today the point is that these interiors are accessible, and many of them on-line. And, many an interior design hound, such as myself, is already blogging about them – rushing to be the first to hit the “Publish” button. To further my annoyance with myself, I’m actually becoming bored and irritated by TBT. I’ve never been one much for trendy trends, only the established kind that evolve and morph over time. But, oh well, I’ll get over it! For now I’ll embrace Throwback Thursday until, one day, I decide to leave it where I should have when I thought it would be such a fun and clever spin on daily blogging: as just another one of my many daily musings.
Most of us are familiar with le style Bennison – rich, layered, and often times opulent interiors informed by warm color palettes and expert editing. Editing isn’t the first word many would come to associate with Bennison but, if you’ve read any of his interviews, he tormented himself over every item in a space he was creating – from each piece of furniture and light fixture to the paintings on the walls and objets d’art, which he painstakingly coerced into clever compositions. As luxurious as his rooms could appear, he knew when to stop. Controlled eclecticism is one description that is fitting. “I use a lot of object but — and I do compare this to minimalism — everything I put in a room is necessary. If you took one or two pieces out of any room I’ve done, the whole thing would fall apart” Bennison argued.
Bennison’s ability to reign it in and compromise proved fruitful for a flat in London he fashioned for a publisher in the 1970’s. More contemporary in style than we would associate with his body of work he, like many designers from the 1970’s, worked in the style of his time. Just look at Mark Hampton’s early projects. His association with David Hicks produced crisp yet classic rooms with punches of color and graphic appeal. So it goes with Bennison, when early in his career he opened a shop selling singular objects that led to commissions to fill entire rooms. For his London client comfort and a feeling of spaciousness for entertaining were his key objectives. The first room you enter is the red drawing room – fashioned from four smaller rooms – which has a rich sedateness about it. The only pattern in the room comes from the carpet and art hanging on the walls. It feels almost like a room in a palazzo that has been modernized, with its Pompiein red walls, simply upholstered furniture, gleaming modern cocktail table and classical art hung salon style.
The dining room opens, via mirrored doors, into another area of the cavernous drawing room. Along one wall is a 17th-century tapestry from Brussels. Surrounding the draped dining table are 18th-century Irish giltwood chairs. Mirrored doors were installed to give depth to the room.
Bennison had the atmospheric library walls painted glossy-black and lined with bronze-edged bookshelves in the style of Billy Baldwin. The desk at the window is English Regency inlaid with brass. Above the fireplace mantel is a Francis Bacon painting of Pope Innocent X.
The walls of the nocturnal master bedroom were covered with a flocked wallpaper made from a 17th-century design to Bennison’s color specifications. The snowflake-patterned brown-and-beige carpet is continued in the adjoining library.
From Interior Views: Design at Its Best by Erica Brown, published 1980. Photography by Michael Boys.