18 Jan 2011
avatar Author: Nicky Haslam

I was recently interviewed by Ronda Carmen for her blog All The Best (www.allthebestblog.com), stylebeat (www.stylebeat.blogspot.com) and Canadian House and Home (www.houseandhome.com) and was asked what my favourite possession is. Without wishing to sound too gushy and sentimental I kept the answer simple and honest, a fan letter from the doyenne of interior decoration, Nancy Lancaster.  

Nancy wrote to me to congratulate me on the decoration of a village hall for a wedding and I treasure the correspondence card with the telephone number of Great Milton 360, if only people still answered their telephones in such a manner nowadays. Nancy Lancaster became business partners with John Fowler who set-up Colefax & Fowler with another matriarch of interiors and society Sybil Colefax. Nancy and John ran the shop from Brook Street and it was during this time that John Fowler bought the Hunting Lodge, which has been my country bolthole for the past 30 years.

 Another treasured possession is John Fowler’s address book as it reads like a Debretts of the now sadly deceased great and the good. Each entry written in pencil and the below shows John’s entry for Nancy, it is quite remarkable what a humble address book can say about a person, with Johns well thumbed torn pages, personal notes and amendments and even the Butler’s name (essential!).

When residing in London John Fowler lived on the Kings Road, Chelsea but sadly the house has long gone, a victim of 1960s planning and was where the Chelsea Fire Brigade are now housed.

Almost directly opposite John was Argyll House once owned by none other than Sybil Colefax who having a severe aversion to the colour of the property (feeling the house was too brash in its prominent location) employed two perfect strangers off the street to wash the house in a mixture of soot and water to tone down the brick.


Now that is positively Shabby Chic!

9 Responses to “Mrs Nancy Lancaster, Great Milton 360”

  1. loved reading this..I am working on a home in Chelsea Green right off Kings Road. Thanks for a great post. From S. CA xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

  2. Those are treasures, there is some who wouldn’t believe we actually used to handwrite our address books! Look forward to the article in Canadian H&H, I am sure they were thrilled to interview you Nicki! XO

  3. avatar Karena says:

    Nicki what great memories to hold near and dear! I will look forward to your interview!


    Art by Karena

  4. avatar p gaye tapp says:

    very special and spectacular. notes in general are becoming more scarce. I find it hard to relinquish any address book- something of a history, names getting scratched out, for what reason, moves, failed friends, death?. I still use one-does anyone else? I wonder? Gaye

  5. avatar Colette says:

    so true PGT…i keep a special box for the few i do receive and treasure them indeed. x

  6. avatar Linda Miller says:

    Interesting isn’t it that the great original decorators who most closely approach perfection – Lancaster, Fowler, Devonshire, Cumming and Haslam – are not products of formal training. And gushy or not, I have to say that Nicky is too often excessively modest (well, does he ever do anything by halfs?) and all the more disarming for his Pimpernelian manner of sometimes affecting something quite other. Well done Ronda Carmen for extracting an exquisitely personal memento from this century’s doyen of interior decoration.

  7. avatar quintessence says:

    Love this! The note and address book are of course incredible – what fabulous keepsakes. And love the story about toning down the facade – can only imagine!

  8. avatar Philip Webb says:

    I love your blog, Nicky. It’s so entertaining – and informative. Can’t wait for the next entry!
    Philip, Manchester.

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