It is every decorator’s dream to receive gifted antiques from the visionaries who came before them and paved the way for their artistry. In the case of Imogen Taylor, who worked at Sibyl Colefax and John Fowler for half a century, Fowler granted him dozens of antiquities in his detailed will. “He knew I had a very empty flat at the time,” says Taylor, who joined the legendary British firm in 1949.
Now the 96-year-old decorator, who rose through the ranks from Fowler’s assistant – a position she held for 17 years – to business associate, has decided to part ways with her assets in a sales exhibition at the Belgravia offices of Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler. from December 2 to 22. (The full list of lots will be posted on the company’s website website at 9:30 a.m. GMT on December 2.) Of the more than 100 antiques on offer, more than 30 once furnished the Hunting lodge, Fowler’s 18th-century Hampshire residence, where he lived from 1947 until his death in 1977. Among the framed paintings, ceramics, chairs and other furnishings in the offering (entitled “The John Fowler & Imogen Taylor Collection—A Selling Exhibition”), Taylor says her favorites are a circular Biedermeier table and six Italian chairs: “They hold such wonderful memories of delicious meals around them at the hunting lodge.” Upon his retirement in 1999, Taylor purchased a small medieval house in Burgundy which housed the treasures of the hunting lodge, as well as other personal effects to be included in the sale.
Taylor was one of Fowler’s many friends lucky enough to receive items from the hunting lodge, which she says “was a pleasure to visit.” “It was so lovely to look at and full of comfort, good food, laughter and friends, and the garden was a delight,” she recalls. These friends included movie rigs, like the Redgraves and Vivien Leighfashion designer Hardy Amies and photographer Horst P. Horst, who photographed the house in 1965. [my] chief. He was very critical and demanding, so [I] was always on [my] better behavior.
It was thanks to Fowler’s discerning eye and partnership with American heiress Nancy Lancaster, who bought Lady Sibyl’s share of the business in the 1940s, that the English country house aesthetic has grown in importance. Fowler and Lancaster would go on business trips to buy antiques, keeping a certain amount for their own properties – the mansions of their clients and of their own homes reflect the ease and eclecticism of the English country house style, which favors the unpretentious, the collectible but comfortable. It’s a look that great homes have inherently acquired after generations of family members have lived in them, each adding elements of their day. Fowler and Lancaster have mastered the hard-to-achieve look of having authentically aged homes. Even Deborah Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshireonce called Hunter “the prince of decorators.”
“He drew inspiration from the past using antiques, traditional color techniques and paint application methods, as well as 18th and 19th century styles of upholstery and curtains,” explains the genius from Taylor of Fowler, which inspired a resurgence in patterns and colors, as well as antiques and classic fabrics, even today. Decorator Taylor firmly believes her mentor’s influence is here to stay: “Many love his legacy and still live as he lived with pretty things everywhere: books, flowers, comfortable furniture, wonderful colors “, she says. By bringing her rare personal Fowler gifts to market, Taylor is giving these antiques the opportunity to resonate with another generation of decorators, historians and design enthusiasts. “His style was not a fad,” she says, “just a way of life.”