English interior designer and furniture designer Tim Gosling attended the cathedral school in Canterbury, where he was a chorister and where, as at most English public schools, everyone wore the same uniform. In the summers, though, his family went to nudist camps. He says it wasn’t sexual at all, and that it wasn’t until he saw people scantily dressed on them that he saw the erotic potential of beaches. When he went to the Central School of Art, he knew nothing about how to dress, so he chose to wear suits all the time. This was far outside art school norms, and a fellow student once punished him for his sartorial transgressions by filling his bowler hat with snow.
“The only reason I got into art school was because I had a portfolio full of naked people,” he recalls.
Fast forward to 2016. Gosling attended a party thrown by his publisher, Thames & Hudson, at The Rug Company on New York’s Upper East Side in honor of his new book, “Classic Contemporary: The DNA of Furniture Design.” He has now become passionate about clothes, and let his freak flag fly that evening by wearing a vibrant blue suit with a matching vest, ochre-yellow tie and pocket square, along with highly polished shoes detailed with a motif of their own. He observed that he is planning to bid on an 18th century frock coat in green brocade, which will shortly be auctioned in London. He intends to wear it himself.
The book is divided into periods and contains lists of the important figures in design during those particular years, along with brief biographies of them. Gosling is often asked to give lectures about historical figures in architecture and design, and sometimes does so dressed as the person in question. “For me, it’s about who is creating the ideas that everyone is discussing,” he said. “Architects who worked in a Gothic world created a style that they believe expressed fundamentally how God wanted architecture to be.”
Gosling and his three brothers are all passionate about the highly social Henley Regatta, and they attend it each year dressed in vintage-style garb — replete with boaters, blazers, waistcoats and wing collars — and bearing well-stocked hampers. A photo of Gosling and one of his siblings at Henley has been made into a jigsaw puzzle that is being sold commercially.
Their father, Raymond Gosling, who died last year, was a scientist who took the first photo of the DNA double helix alongside Rosalind Franklin in 1950. “It was so beautiful that I knew that it had to be right,” he told them. The title of his son’s new book, which is dedicated to him, is a nod to this work.
Gosling’s favorite epoch in decorating is Regency, from 1800 to 1830. The furniture and architecture of this period combined classical influences with a dose of the flamboyance of the Prince Regent, who had taken over for his father King George III, who was incapacitated by mental illness. Architects and designers Henry Holland, James Wyatt, Thomas Sheraton and John Soane were among the leading arbiters of taste in these years. So was Decimus Burton, whom Gosling recently impersonated during a lecture.
Unlike most art school students, Gosling never underwent the typical months or years of struggle after graduation. He studied theatrical design, which he said is “just like interior design,” and went right into working on “Miss Saigon” with Cameron Mackintosh, then “Starlight Express” and a Siegfried & Roy production. Before long, he had been introduced to Viscount David Linley, Princess Margaret’s son, who is well-known for his custom furniture business specializing in elaborate traditional pieces. He also became friends with Sir Elton John. Gosling worked with Linley for 18 years, then launched his own firm. Going forward, he said he’d like to have a TV show. He is already practicing sketching in front of the camera to prepare.
He lives in a London town house built in 1787 and drives a 1934 Rolls Royce. “I absolutely adore Soane,” he said of the former, referencing the Neoclassical architect Sir John Soane, adding of his car, “Between the wars was a great period.” Gosling also owns what he describes as “350 or 400” ties, which are all organized chromatically. “It always amazes me when a man says to me of a tie, ‘That’s so bright, I could never wear that.’”
Gosling is very keen on museums and spends a great deal of time at one of his favorites, the Victoria and Albert in London. “The Frick is sensational, and so is the Winterthur,” he added.
Every three years he organizes what must be one of the campest events in London: a pantomine based on a theme in decorating and with top interior designers as performers. He enlists top fashion designers to do the costumes, among them Vivienne Westwood, Zandra Rhodes and Valentino. One recent theme was “Peter Pan and the Designers of the Caribbean.” Apparently the “Designers of the Caribbean”went out of control overdecorating Never-Neverland, because there was no client to stop them.