Haslam Has It…

So who…

is best friend with Min Hogg, legendary founder of WOI

was getting down with Tallulah Bankhead age 15 (in between Eton College term times)

was a stalwart companion of Diana Cooper née Manners

had reclusive star Greta Garbo over for breakfast

personally delivered  the last EVER photo shoot proofs to  a troubled Marilyn Monroe

absorbed hi-art in the fading light of the painters’ swirling brushes on an idyllic Cote d’Azur

lived in London as it started to swing (in fact started the swing)

moved to New York to really swing and worked at Vogue for Diana Vreeland

Lived in a ranch amongst cowboys and indians in Arizona

returned to London to become Decorator extraordinaire to the A list

oh and naturally ranks in GQ’s and Vanity Fair’s best dressed lists

whose life is it, that charges through the whose-who of the 20th century…

who? well the man who has it…. Haslam.  Lucky to be born gay in the right half of the century, lucky to be born beautiful, lucky to be supremely talented and extremely well connected. Charged by a childhood illness:  polio and  a 3 year paralysis, Haslan emerged to lived voraciously.  He’s a one off and pretty legendary himself at this stage.

Haslam zimbio

Haslam looking dapper via ‘zimbio’

It seems appropriate then that his heart belongs to ‘quite simply the prettiest small house in the world‘ (his words).  The hunting lodge, equally beloved by its previous occupant John Fowler, has a worthy custodian. Fowler wrote: What I wanted here was something utterly unpretentious, very comfortable, with a veneer of elegance and informality, it could equally describe Haslam’s current atmosphere.


Fowler through an upstairs window

In London last week, copies of this book were everywhere and on the internet there’s been a steady flow of glowing reports for ‘Folly de Grandeur’. as the Foreward says: ‘not many small houses could live up to this level of forensic examination’ but Haslan’s can.  Min Hogg reviewed the book for WOI and explains: in many ways today’s resident is the epitome of fashionable, but in decoration he has long eschewed the latest fads; his style, his taste, his rooms evolve.  Haslam’s aesthetic is consummate, finely honed and confidently asserted.

Born in 1939 he grew up in a gloriously proportioned Baroque house, with appropriately beautiful interiors. He subsequently absorbed all the major decorative styles first hand: including  the vibrant fizz of Billy Baldwin and David Hicks.  He soaked up graphic design under Vreeland’s legendary eye  whilst prowling the Met studying imported European rooms: their scale, proportions and architectural details.  Free time –  well he hung out in the finest high society interiors Babe Paley, the Mellons, the Harlechs and the Agnellis. All the time observing, learning, absorbing.  All this is distilled and poured into his home, Folly de Grandeur invites you in for a full tour.


the romantic facade from 1720-40 which  evoked loved at first sight

Open up and the book is dedicated to Colette:


His right hand and creative director, Colette met Nicky through the house which she made the subject of her Masters theses  in 2003.  A shared passion for the building forged into friendship and working partnership: the power of walls.


The book presents the house in intimate detail, right down to illustrated floor plans.

A miniature house with a flower room, pantry and library ….gotta love it.

Haslam describes his style as hotchpotch, but only an individual of exquisite taste and knowledge could pull this off, everything goes because it passses through his super-refined lens.  It’s a glorious confidence aligned with sensitive sensibility: happily getting out the copydex and marker pen – whilst carefully respectful of walls that talk!


a false door which he added because he felt the  facade needed it, later research showed there had in fact previously been a door here.


the tiny staircase where Nicky ‘stuck down’ Fowler’s Mauny wallpaer  for years until faithfully replacing it, why? it works. Nicky advises: beef up the scale of wall coverings in small spaces.  The size creates an coup d’oiel pulling everything together whereas small patterns tend to simply trail away.  

I find it touching that several aspects of Fowler’s interior schemes remain.  Unlike many incoming residents, Haslam does not need to assert his ownership and taste, he has nothing to prove.

Fowler’s sitting room



Nicky’s sitting room, the walls in the sitting room were painted in oxblood with distemper
(‘research’ led Nicky to conclude this was exactly the same colour as 70’s fabric elastoplasts).


the entrance hall which also echoes Fowlers original design

Nicky cites the architectural elements as the source of his inspiration, ‘giving the rooms a structural form on which to base decorative forms‘.  What makes his decoration sing is his humour and charm projected into the decor, he constantly makes you look again –  strong visual harmony is consistently teased into something more exciting.


The heron’s  head disappearing, complemented by the facing heron’s on the mantlepiece. Go closer and…

IMG_4129the handwritten lampshades appear, while the panelled walls behind are actually a trompe l’oiel illusion.

It’s all in the details… as an English house should be, layered and sifted, casually and artfully arranged.

miniature fireside chair under a gothick cupboard

miniature fireside chair (with standout silk leopard skin velvet) under a gothic cupboard with an oak leaf fastening ‘exactly the kind of detail I find iressistable

what fun...

the butterflies ‘appear to be attracted to the toile lamp shades‘.

the bird

the bowls precariously aligned over a chair, safe to sit? the bird taking off overhead advises you to possibly remain standing.

dahlia tole lamp

I love tôle, (french imitation lacquerware painted on tin) and this dahlia lamp is as impressive as it gets, indeed Haslam calls them ‘aggressive‘.

black 'marker' marbling

look closer and you can see where Haslam marbleised it up  one day with marker pen.  He also marbleises walls and ceiling to hide the cracks… cheap-chic.


his bedroom where Mauny strips applied in vertical stripes, visually heighten the room, curtain pelmets echo the ogee shape windows and a bed where ‘edging chintz in a solid colour is an essential touch‘.’


through the landing Haslam leads you with visually gay abandon…


 to a tiny uber-striped room, completed with saddler’s horse blanket as rug.


stripes of different size abound off set by solid red curtains


 a lone chair’s organic red foliage leading into the stripe

red stripe on organic swirling red

back downstairs and Haslam visual feast continues from surprising one-off pieces to collages of pattern and colour.

a 'book' table for cuttings

the  library has a ‘book’ table for newspaper clippings


‘I don’t believe in the accepted view that all materials have to match. I prefer to jumble up several different patterns, like a kaleidoscope.  The eye soon sorts out the various motifs and vivacity is replaced by calm.’

casual co-ordinates

red check beside red fretwork

And of course Haslam decorates with friends:

a mother's portrait presiding over evening drinks

from his mother’s portrait presiding over the drinks table offering ‘silent approval’ of evening drinks.

a portrait dog mirrors the dog below

from dog to dog  and man to man …

a crammed mantlepiece

to the crammed mantelpiece


friends’ paintings of the lodge

pencils by the phone

pencils ready by the ‘gifted’ phone.

joke lobster from a party...


joke lobster from an event beside Min Hogg’s sequinned card

oh and watch out as you turn the light off and leave the lodge

ready to jump

Because Haslam’s book really invites you to stay, to look again and listen.  Haslam’s style may not be yours but his knowledge and insight which light up this book transcend  styles and genres, Haslam has it.

All photos from ‘Folly de Grandeur‘, photography by Simon Upton, except images of John Fowler from ‘The Prince of Decorators’.

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