London Love with Ashley Hicks Apartment

As I hop the pond tomorrow evening to visit London for a few days I thought I should share the quirky cool home of a renowned English designer…

Ashley Hicks Revitalizes His Father’s Beloved London Apartment via AD

The designer puts his own provocative stamp on the high-style apartment that was his famous father’s pride and joy

The couple—he wears Gucci, she a Fleur du Mal kimono—with Italian greyhounds Cara and Mia in the bedroom. A 1920s African skirt is mounted at the top of the bed curtain. Ashley Hicks for Frette bed linens.

Being the child of one of the decorating world’s undisputed gods surely makes it a challenge to carve out one’s own creative niche. Just imagine the shadow cast as well as the whispered comparisons. But Ashley Hicks, only son of David the great and powerful—a jet-setting style dictator who shook up the 1960s with his electrifying geometric patterns, impudent color combinations, and spectacular dandyism—has done just that. In some ways, though, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. The younger Hicks even inhabits his father’s two-room apartment at Albany, the redbrick residential complex that has been London’s most coveted address since 1802, when Henry Holland, the Prince Regent’s favorite architect, retrofitted and expanded the Duke of Albany’s neoclassical mansion into lodgings for upper-crust bachelors.

“My parents moved there in 1979, but we kids were at boarding school or at home in Oxfordshire,” Ashley says. The so-called “set” (Albany parlance from Georgian times, back when “apartment” meant a single room and a set of apartments designated a suite for living) had been decorated, twice, in the uncompromising taste of his father, who died in 1998. Ashley took up residence three years ago, after his mother, Lady Pamela, a cousin of Prince Philip’s, decided that she could no longer manage the steep stone stairway that leads to the front door. The set’s furnishings—including the Empire-style chairs that Jansen made for Lady Pamela’s glamorously racy mother, Countess Mountbatten of Burma—were given to Ashley’s sisters, leaving a tabula rasa ripe for improvement. Little more than the living room’s Van Dyke–brown walls remained.

That somber finish has since vanished, replaced by a sepia-tone mural depicting Constantinople in 1818, “before Topkapi Point was destroyed by a ghastly railway,” Ashley explains. He painted the Ottoman panorama on burlap and incorporated, of all things, portraits of his Oxfordshire retreat’s chickens—the strutting divas of @ashleyhicks1970—and giant evocations of the bronze or marble pendants that were suspended in ancient Roman pergolas and turned in the slightest breeze. (It’s the kind of decor that should come with footnotes.)

The London home of newlyweds Kata and Ashley Hicks showcases the latter’s creative vision, from the living room’s hand-painted mural of Constantinople to the chain-link-motif carpeting; Ashley also made the golden table in the mirrored bedroom niche beyond and the obelisk atop it.

Most of the furnishings and special effects bear the puckish designer’s idiosyncratic stamp, whether conjured up by him and manufactured by others (carpets, fabrics, wallpapers, etc.) or produced by his own hand. Ashley gilded the living room’s 1950s Cees Braakman chairs and constructed the bedroom’s towering obelisk out of form board that he papered with photocopies of jewel-tone onyx. He cast giant resin gems that he then stacked into funky polychrome towers, carved a wood table base in the shape of an immense broken nose (think Greek statuary fragments), hammered golden nailheads across the kitchen’s ebony-dark cabinets, and glued pheasant feathers onto a lampshade for the dressing room.

“My dad loved having museum-quality objects around him,” Ashley explains, especially heirlooms inherited from Lady Mountbatten and her grandfather Sir Ernest Cassel, the capitalist connoisseur. (Call it gilt by association.) “I find it a bit uncomfortable.” For the most part he’s avoided familial treasures, though Granny Mountbatten’s Louis XVI sofa is parked in the living room, dressed in a lively Ashley Hicks fabric.

Being subsumed by Hicksiana is absolutely fine with the designer’s wife, Kata, an effervescent Texan who cheerfully admits that her contribution to their homes is nil: “I stay out of Ashley’s way.” (Rather like her in-laws’ own division of labor, it must be noted.) The domestic narrative may be overwhelmingly his, but she has contributed a few personal touches, among them a Louis XV–style bergère that graced her old Paris apartment and one of Yoko Ono’s Box of Smile sculptures. She also inspired the dressing room’s tangerine armoire. As her husband drolly explains, “I was obliged to design it for the unanticipated arrival of women’s wear.”

Indeed the set was nearly complete by May 2015, when Ashley—once married to designer Allegra Hicks, mother of his grown daughters, Angelica and Ambrosia—spotted Katalina Sharkey de Solis cavorting on mutual friend artist Donald Robertson’s Instagram. Four months later they wed, the bride in a Fleur du Mal lace jumpsuit and bunny ears. The couple’s first date, though, which began with dinner at the Wolseley and ended with drinks at Albany, had been somewhat deflating.

“After about 30 minutes of me not even commenting on the place, Ashley finally asked if I liked the muses he had painted,” Kata, a digital strategist, recounts. “I had to tell him that I could only see brown smudges—I’m legally blind, so can see only shapes, not details.” Her swain was crushed, but Kata, laughing, says, “the silver lining is that I can never interfere in his work.”

The London home of newlyweds Kata and Ashley Hicks showcases the latter’s creative vision, from the living room’s hand-painted mural of Constantinople to the chain-link-motif carpeting; Ashley also made the golden table in the mirrored bedroom niche beyond and the obelisk atop it.

Niki de Saint Phalle’s Inflatable Nana greets visitors in the cork-lined entrance hall, which is an homage to Marcel Proust.

On an Ashley Hicks–made console in the living room, a James Brown painting stands between two Hicks sculptures.

The living room’s 1950s Cees Braakman chairs were gilded by Ashley and join a table of his design. The mirror, the multicolor totem sculpture, and the leather-clad ottoman are also by Ashley. SLV ceiling lights; white Iberian vase from McWhirter.

Copies of the Yellow Book, the influential 1890s periodical that was published in the couple’s apartment building, are displayed in a bookcase.

A client’s admonition (“This is Not Versailles”) emblazons the kitchen; Ashley created the backsplash and studded the cabinets with brass nails.

The dressing room, where Donald Robertson portraits of Kata are painted onto a Globetrotter suitcase. Ashley Hicks wardrobe and carpeting.

The bath’s entrance is lined with a Lee Jofa wallpaper.

Ashley’s snapshots of museum treasures turn the bath into a cabinet of curiosities. Bette tub; Hansgrohe fittings.

Portraits by David Hicks, including one of cousin Queen Elizabeth II, are displayed in the dressing room; the headboard fabric is by Lee Jofa.

I am ready for a little UK style. 

Be sure to continue to check my gift guides as I update them daily throughout the season as I discover the next best thing or as things sell out… 

Holiday Guide to Festive Fashions

2017 Gift Guide for Me

2017 Gift Guide for Stocking Stuffers

2017 Gift Guide for the Home

2017 Gift Guide for Her

2017 Gift Guide for Him

2017 Gift Guide for The Teens / Tweens

2017 Gift Guide for The Little Ones

2017 Gift Guide for Holiday Decor

2017 Gift Guide for the Host / Hostess

2017 Gift Guide for the Bibliophile

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