British designer David Hicks (1929 – 1998) was a rock star of interior design in the 1960s and 1970s. A master at using eye-popping pattern and color, and mixing antique and modern furnishings, his legacy of clashing color and vivid geometric shapes was pure over-the-top opulence. “Style is not what you do but how you do it,” wrote Hicks, whose personality was as flamboyant as his kaleidoscopic interiors.
Hicks found fame in 1954 when the London home he decorated for himself and his mother was featured in the pages of British magazine House & Garden. The designer received further recognition in 1960 when he married Lady Pamela Mountbatten, the younger daughter of the Earl Mountbatten of Burma, last Viceroy of India, and a great-grandson of Queen Victoria.
Their country home, Britwell in Oxfordshire, became an ambitious and life-long project in which David developed his approach to country-house interiors. Applying bold solid colors and striking graphic prints to otherwise traditional interiors, he established what would become his signature style for many years to come.
When Hicks turned his talented hand to the interiors of refined and historic buildings the outcome was eclectic, almost eccentric. Mixing British antique artifacts with contemporary art and modern furnishings, Hicks’ interiors were unexpected and unconventional with seemingly inharmonious futuristic and traditional forms.
“My greatest contribution as an interior designer has been to show people how to use bold color mixtures, how to use patterned carpets, how to light rooms, and how to mix old with new,” Hicks wrote in David Hicks on Living—with Taste (1968).
The no-holds-barred designer was renowned for what he termed ‘tablescapes’—carefully arranged horizontal compositions of objects, curios, and artworks that he worked into any and every interior. “It is perhaps I who have made tablescapes… into an art form; indeed, I invented the word,” he wrote. “What is important is not how valuable or inexpensive your objects are, but the care and feeling with which you arrange them.”
With a growing Rolodex of royal and celebrity connections, Hicks’ work ranged from grand country houses to restaurants, nightclubs, and shops. Hicks did projects for Vidal Sasoon, Mrs. Condé Nast, Mrs. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Helena Rubenstein. In the 1960s he made carpets for Windsor Castle, decorated the Prince of Wales’ first apartment at Buckingham Palace, designed the Manhattan apartments of the rich and famous, and tricked out a number of London hotspots. “He was without doubt a genius,” said restaurateur Peter Evans.
Hicks’ work became ever more groovy and imaginative in the 1970s. He continued to refine Britwell; he updated the grand Northern Ireland country house Baronscourt; and in 1987 he completed Vila Verde, a Post-Modern mansion in Portugal that he designed in its entirety.
Never one to settle, Hicks designed geometrically patterned carpets and fabrics when he found none that matched his stylish standards. By the 1970s David Hicks Ltd. was producing wallpaper, carpet, fabrics, and linens and by the 1980s he had offices and shops in 15 countries around the world, including France, Belgium, and South Africa.
Anything but a modernist and minimalist, Hicks revolutionized interior design and decoration in the 1960s and 1970s and loved every bit of fame and celebrity that came with it. In fact so much so that he requested his coffin be filled with his obituary notices. “He loved his press coverage,” his son Ashley Hicks noted.