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24 Hours: A Day In the Life of Designer Nicky Haslam
Photographs by Dominic Blackmore
Written by Jennifer Wilson
Produced by Jenny Bradley
Designer Nicky Haslam strolls into his mod white studio on London’s Pavilion Road, a converted mews street where horses were once kept behind a grand Victorian apartment block. It’s 9 a.m., and the dapper, silver-haired design icon is early. Perhaps it was a mellow night on the global social scene he’s rocked for decades—from Studio 54 in the ’70s to this year’s Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
Born the third son of a British diplomat and a goddaughter of Queen Victoria, maybe the designer within him was born when Nicky was bed-bound as a child with polio, and a dollhouse with interchangeable interiors was among his favorite diversions. He began appointing rooms and parties for famous clients such as Natalie Wood in the 1960s. Now, his roster includes rockers Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart, as well as the Prince of Wales.
Collaborating With Collette van den Thillart
His creative director, Colette van den Thillart, her early-morning hours spent dropping kids at school, is already in. The design duo met eight years ago when Colette asked Nicky for advice about her master’s thesis on legendary designer John Fowler. They’ve been aesthetic soul mates ever since—she’s the leopard-print scarf to his Armani coat.
“We have the joy of transatlantic vantages. As a Canadian, I bring a fresh North American take. Nicky gives me a bolder understanding of that British thing we all envy,” she says, holding up a piece of glazed fabric. “Like mastering chintz, for example. Secretly, we’re showing off to each other, and that really brings out the best of both of us.”
NH Fabric Line
Nicky and Colette pass the hour in their office perusing sample books, examining accessories for clients, and sifting through swatches from their new fabric line. “It’s a moveable feast,” says Nicky.
The morning feast complete, they depart to gather more ingredients.
10:30 a.m. John Sandoe Books Ltd.
A stone’s throw from the NH Design studio, this tiny independent bookseller is like a scene from Dickens, with proper pane windows streaming amber light. Nicky declares it London’s best for design titles. Here, says Nicky, “You can dream of a book life.” The shop, of course, carries his recent memoir.
John Sandoe Books, Ltd., 10 Blacklands Terrace, London SW3 2SR
11 a.m. Claremont London
“This is the best fabric house, I should think, in the world,” Nicky muses, scanning heavy folds on wide shelves. “You can feel the fabric and lift it and take it outside where you can see it by daylight.” Colette announces: “The future home of our own NH fabric collection!”
Claremont London, 35 Elystan Street, London SW3 3NT
11:30 a.m. Rupert Bevan
“Rupert is a master furnituremaker, gilder, and restorer,” declares Nicky, upon entering the studio scented with rabbit-skin glue, turpentine, and sawdust. “And every girl is in love with him.”
Rupert Bevan, 40–44 Fulham High Street, London SW6 3LQ
12 p.m. David Saxby’s Old Hat Classic & Vintage Clothing
Just steps down the road at David Saxby’s, shelves tower with trilbies, top hats, and flat caps. Ascots bedeck the walls. Racks bulge with tweeds and Edwardian wear. “I sometimes yearn not to wear jeans, T-shirts, and leather jackets,” says Nicky, auditioning cream-colored jodhpurs. “It’s quite fun to come in and rummage around.”
David Saxby’s Old Hat, 66 Fulham High Street, London SW6 3LQ
Lunch! Daylesford Farmshop & Café
The pair circles back toward the Nicholas Haslam retail shop (run by Paolo Moschino). They dine at eco-royal Lady Bamford’s cafe, her produce and proteins like art against white marble and pale wood surroundings.
Daylesford Farmshop & Café, 44B Pimlico Road, London SW1W 8LP
Daylesford Farmshop & Café
“Upstairs is the most heavenly homewares collection,” adds Colette. “The cane-wrapped glasses are a hit with Nicky.”
2 p.m. Christopher Butterworth
Just opposite, the two can barely move in the petite packed emporium of 18th-century French objets d’art. “They have the most amazing antique stock,” says Nicky. “Lamps, hanging lights, chandeliers, marble statues, fireplaces. This is a very romantic shop.”
Christopher Butterworth, 71 Pimlico Road, Chelsea, London SW1W 8NE
3:30 p.m. First Tailored Alterations
“Central to my life,” declares Nicky amid walls lined with autographed photos of customers like Mick Jagger. “Tosca will alter anything to fit one at a moment’s notice.”
First Tailored Alterations, 85 Lower Sloane Street, Chelsea, London SW1W 8DA; Tel. 020 7730 1400
5:30 p.m. The Savoy Hotel
Nicky orders a dirty gin martini (Colette, pink champagne) at the Beauford Bar, where he performs a twice-yearly cabaret—songs from favorites like Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Irving Berlin. “Somehow, you walk a little taller here,” says Colette. “It’s a jewel box. One of the best places in the city to make you look beautiful.”
In a quiet lull, Colette pulls out the sketchbook, and she and Nicky return to what they do best—helping the rest of the world look beautiful.
The Savoy Hotel, Strand, London WC2R 0EU
Colette van den Thillart’s Own Home
Colette van den Thillart’s own Toronto home is so lovely we featured it on our cover in early 2012. Take a tour!