How do you start decorating?
Most people collect some tear sheets, look at colour charts, possibly think about storage.
Most people end up with a variation on a theme of current decorating trends: You know – open plan something, Farrow and Ball whites and greys, flash of an accent colour, smatter of vintage – I could go on.
Very occasionally you see something totally different.
Ricky Clifton made the cover of April’s World of Interiors with Agness Deyn’s apartment, it is totally different.
Love it, hate it (and plenty of people have trashed in on line) – I defy you not to have a reaction to it. That’s what makes it interesting.
I delved further, Ricky is an eccentric type, calling himself, “deeply superficial” and currently operating under the name of April after his WOI coup. A designer, artist, former taxi driver, party man, art-circle pivot. Select – yes, contrary -possibly. Website – no – not even email – discouraging 99% of the NYC population in one sweep. His clients exist in a rarefied world; hi-art, hi-fashion, hi-octane.
When I look at interiors I ask: is it timeless? Billy Baldwin always remembered the room he considered timeless and it inspired him forever. On that count alone Clifton succeeds, he creates interiors that reflect huge creative journeys outside current trends, they don’t sit easily beside today’s mainstream photo-shoot fodder.
Take his previous WOI spread. New York’s ultimate art-sy couple
John Currin and Rachel Feinstein called him in when they couldn’t realise their complex interior vision. (Interesting how creativity in one area doesn’t directly translate, 3-d interiors challenging extremely talented artists.) The end result is described as “genuinely startling and powerful- but so subtly handled as to never be overpowering, and always liveable.” WOI dec 2010.
Here they are, husband on the Duchess of Windsor’s former (uncomfortable) sofa alongside a Tommaso Barbi brass leaf lamp found by Clifton, in the classic Hockney pose.
How does Ricky do it? well, should you want something original you need to start from a different place:
Ricky and Aggy imagined a journey made by Madelaine Castaing, Napoleon III and Fornasetti to a Venice replete with mermaid grottoes and circus performers – who pause for meditation.
Currin and Feinstein wanted to synthesise their major style crushes: Annabel’s the London society night club, a third world dictator’s version of Rococo (love that one) and Carlo Mollino (described as the ultimate Italian sensualist). Plus a smattering of Hollywood Regency and tribal Indian… got it?
In both cases your strapping yourself in for a creative trip which will take you to a far flung destination, way off the mainstream radar. The tension between these disparate elements needs careful plotting for your journey to stay on course and arrive at your destination ‘fantasy home’ rather than ‘lost in space’.
Maybe I should quote Ricky at this point:
Q: You create a sense of tension?
RC: At one point I worked for couturier Charles James. He taught me that every great design should have some little point of ridicule. I still apply this principle to all of my work.
Q: client influence?
RC: I always try to take client ideas and then sort of have fun with them. Even corrupt some of them.
Q: Do you favour a specific period of design history?
RC: Mid 19th C during the industrial revolution, when aristocracy started to crumble and modernism started. Style was sophisticted, not obsessed with luxury. I like Christopher Dresser and William Morris. I like different periods all mixed together – like Disco Granny.
So what do these epic fantasies look like?
The main sitting room has strong Venetian influences with Fornasetti fabric and wallpaper, Madelaine Castaing style leopard print carpet, day beds, Victoriana …oh and fair ground sconces, a doge’s throne and flying swans.
The salon as opium den complete with Belle Epoque poppy stools and a Baldwin style ottoman seat.
A sur-real moment (among many) with a circular entrance to a Japanese meditation chamber cut into mirrored wall.
The bedroom has a mirror-clad dressing room of ‘professional proportions’ reflecting an underwater scene to soothe and restore, the murals are painted by Ricky, Venetian grotto seats complement the coral reef.
A virtual Enfilade leading you on.
A bit of fun with Fornasetti’s faux-libraby in the shower room
A blackamoor holds the powder room sink aloft.
One of my favourite WOI shots: a cross section into the laundry room where a Venetian mirror guides you in, before the Arab Soldier oversees the work. Beautiful contrasts in clear graphic lines.
John Currin and Rachel Feinstein’s pad, which has 3 small children in the loop. The blue/red/brass/cream colour palette is a great foil to their exuberant design classics -creating a glamorous and inviting space.
The entrance has a Carlo Mollino repro chair – homage to the inspiration and the Italian classics to come.
19th century table and light in the parlour with Mollino style giant clam shell and gold-on-gold chairs
kitchen retains the same palette. Boffi cabinets and an Arte Luche light, which Clifton used to simplify the space – 3 giant chandeliers previously competed here.
Fornasetti chest – maybe for cutlery, definitely to covet. The ‘wooden’ pottery, pretty fantastical, is from Vallauris.
Panelling inspired by mid-century yachts, velvet , tone-on-tone in the TV corner. Currin’s picture of Feinstein resting above, a beautiful collection of classical style urns, and then the feel-good 50’s kitsch subverting the scene.
An Ico Parisi side board with scales and bust. That leopard print carpet again (Madelaine introduced it to hide the dog prints – bet it’s great for small kids too)
I love this shot, Ricky Clifton resurrects the taboo 80’s with great aplomb: splicing it with stylish mid century, a restrained palette and a melange of materials – shag pile, wood, velvet, brass.
The boudoir, (if you have a parlour – it’s got to be a boudoir, right?) A bespoke rococo style bed from La Maison, Commedia dell’arte side lamps, the cut off mirror and glimpse of bathroom.
Once inside stripes morph into flowers. Totally disco-granny.
In WOI Currin mentions Clifton’s fantasy: ‘super sophisticated Norman Bates’ – Opulence and sophistication with a sharp twist of ridicule. This collaboration is a meeting of equal minds, clients who knew what they wanted, yet willing to make the journey, argue the route and arrive in a singular space.
Agyness is young and single, if you can’t act out your fantasies then? and what a trip she’s taken. I think she will keep momentoes from this journey throughout her life.
Most people can’t indulge in ‘magic carpet decor’, we are too chained to the realities of daily life. But a little git of gold dust… cheers the soul, so why not indulge?
Who would you like to take a journey with?
I’d like to ride on a magic carpet with Billy Baldwin at my side, stop off at Willy Rizzo’s Dolce Vita, take in an eccentric 30’s England and enjoy tea with Mrs Delany* in a chinoiserie parlour. But it is very difficult to choose, so that’s where Billy would come in, or maybe if you were the chosen few – the elusive Ricky Clifton.
All images from World of Interiors, except Ricky Clifton courtesy of Artnet.
* I have just finished Molly Peacock’s wonderful book about Mrs Delaney. A Georgian lady who left an extraordinary creative legacy.