LONDON — Ashley Hicks has written a short biography of his late father, David Hicks, the seminal interior decorator with a passion for geometric patterns. But one question remains: Would dad have been happy?
“He was obsessed with having a proper, big biography written about him, but he wasn’t famous enough,” says Hicks. “My father was gripped by the drama of his own life.”
This story first appeared in the December 17, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
He might not have been famous enough to merit a weighty tome, though clients included everyone from Helena Rubinstein to the Prince of Wales, but to many — such as Tom Ford, who wrote the foreword to “David Hicks: Designer” (Scriptum Editions) — he was a style icon. “Hicks’ work has become something of a rule book for instant elegance,” Ford writes. “I fall back on his tricks myself: If I need to make a room glamorous, I lacquer the walls in a dark color.”
Hicks reached his height in the Sixties and Seventies, when his bold, often clashing colors, dizzying patterns and dramatic lighting were the last word in sophistication and the utter antithesis of the English country look. He even had his own fashion collection until the business closed in the mid-Eighties.
Author Hicks, a London-based architect and furniture designer, recalls life chez his father as being like one big theater set with glorious props and scenery. He remembers it as literally picture perfect. “Many decorators live in a perfect environment — but not to my father’s extent. It was living in an unrealistic way, a perfect and frightening atmosphere, where no object could be moved or the spell would be broken. That was my childhood.” Hicks says that his father loved having “beautiful, old things to play with,” which means he’d lovingly place pieces of 18th-century Chinese green jade on a green tabletop and bits of pink quartz on a pink one. And he certainly had his fair share of toys.
In 1960, David Hicks married Pamela Mountbatten, the younger daughter of the famed beauty Lady Edwina and Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India, which, among other things, meant he’d never run low on exotic or precious objects. “He knew and loved the history and every single detail of those objects inherited from my grandmother,” says Hicks.
In the book, Hicks points out that his father, who was from an upper-middle class Essex family, had always been fascinated by the Mountbattens. And who wouldn’t be? The family tree includes Charlemagne, two saints, Lady Godiva, and a string of royals — including the current Queen of England.