Ashley Hicks’ guide to decorating a rental flat

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Ashley Hicks describes how he redecorated a rented flat in west London, using handmade details and David Hicks fabrics to achieve a sophisticated and very personal look that was designed not to last

Growing up in homes designed by David Hicks doesn’t make you exactly relaxed about your surroundings, especially if he was your father. I’m not as extreme as him: I don’t always feel compelled to rearrange the furniture in my hotel room, for example. Nevertheless, renting a flat for a few years, however great its location (Brompton Cross) or its views (extensive, with the Michelin building in the foreground) can be torture. Low ceilings, white walls throughout, ghastly beige nylon carpeting, ugly new uPVC windows: not a recipe for happiness.

I could just about live with white walls, but not in the sitting room. Its dreadful proportions, a lack of symmetry and the plain floor demanded a strong treatment for the walls. I painted them myself, creating a random geometric design in earthy, sandy colours to make the beige carpet work, and to inject some life, excitement and verticality into the space. A particularly ugly bit of window I hid with a folding screen: an 1862 map of London – ‘Oh, very useful, darling!’ joked my mother.

One big window, facing a hideous block of flats, I covered with a transparency of my
photograph of Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, which the daylight made into a sophisticated art light box. The small dining area sat under this, so that my breakfasts felt like Roman feasts. In the corner, I placed a simple, cream-painted obelisk, a coup d’oeil viewed from the entrance passage. I replaced ugly lighting tracks with cheap pendants, making shades myself from copper sheet painted with black stripes. It was ridiculously dark at night, but very atmospheric.

To the sandy, earthy colours, I added splashes of turquoise, hot pink and orange, which gave the whole room a happy, vibrant air. The only art was a piece by my friends Langlands & Bell, alongside a Klingon-looking object, which I carved out of MDF and lacquered white to go over the sofa.

I gave the long, white corridor some added zip with David Hicks Sixties-style striped
borders of braid on red vinyl and a hot pink, lacquered top for a console with a camel’s leg that I carved and faux-bronzed. On the walls, I hung a group of my father’s portrait prints from 1967, including Sandie Shaw, the King of Tonga and little me, aged four.

Off the passage opened bedrooms for me and my two daughters. To give these character and interest despite white walls and beige carpet, I constructed elaborate beds. Angelica’s was swathed in Mughal-inspired flock named after her, beige and white, with sharp borders of bright-red grosgrain. Ambrosia’s was tented in my brown-and-white ‘Openweave’ print, with leopard cushions and a chaise longue in her own eponymous print. Accents of bright grass green included Tingewick lamps with shades trimmed – by me, like everything – in pheasant feathers.

My own bed had hangings held by a giant hexagon, with a David Hicks by Ashley Hicks embroidered fabric on the headboard and cushions, and its hexagon design repeated in huge scale with appliquéd ribbon on the bedspread. Screens on either side were covered with Cole & Son’s ‘Hicks Grand’ paper – more hexagons. I turned the ugly wardrobes into a faux museum with stuck-on vinyl prints of my photographs of small objects in real museums, which gave the room a quite different dimension and feeling. I also bought a cheap, walnut-veneered chest of drawers online and customised the handles with polymer clay in my own coral-inspired forms. 

I have moved on now, to further decorating adventures. The thing I’ll miss most about
the flat, I must admit, isn’t my geometric walls, breakfasting with Bernini or even the sunsets over South Ken. It’s being woken by that most charming of urban noises, the clippity-clop of hooves and the jangling of bridles as the Household Cavalry trotted past.

Ashley Hicks' guide to decorating a rental flat

Living Room Detail – Ashely Hicks Bright London Flat

 Decorated with an 1862 map of London, the screen disguises an ugly bit of fenestration; Ashley’s sofa is upholstered in custom-printed linen and the side table has an onyx top.
Ashley Hicks' guide to decorating a rental flat

Hallway – Ashely Hicks Bright London Flat

The hall table is in pink lacquer, set on a carved and bronzed camel’s leg; on it stands
a Piranesi print, while a painting by James Brown hangs above, which was swapped for two of Ashley’s chairs.

Ashley Hicks' guide to decorating a rental flat

Living Area – Ashely Hicks Bright London Flat

 Apart from the Louis XVI sofa in turquoise silk, Ashley Hicks designed all the furniture in his sitting room, and painted the walls and faux-mosaic, coffee-table top himself. 
Ashley Hicks' guide to decorating a rental flat

Dining Table – Ashely Hicks Bright London Flat

In oak with cast-metal pedestals, the dining table is paired with a bench seat in David Hicks ‘Clinch’ weave and has a cream obelisk next to it.
Ashley Hicks' guide to decorating a rental flat

Ottoman – Ashely Hicks Bright London Flat

Pieces include an étagère topped with gilded ‘flames’ and an X-frame ottoman with needlepoint. The view from one window was so ugly, Ashley covered it with a transparency of a Bernini chapel in Rome. 
Ashley Hicks' guide to decorating a rental flat

Studio – Ashely Hicks Bright London Flat

The door to the studio has nailed decoration – when the door is open, it lines up with the nailing on the bookcase to dramatic effect.

View into Corridor – Ashely Hicks Bright London Flat

The corridor seen from the sitting room

Main Bedroom – Ashely Hicks Bright London Flat

Ashley Hicks' guide to decorating a rental flat

Daughter’s Bedroom – Ashely Hicks Bright London Flat

Ambrosia’s bedroom has been visually enlarged with mirrors found in the flat and put together, with vintage braid covering the join.

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