Sycamore House in Clapham Old Town is home to Tim Gosling and the design business that bears his name. This grand house, built in the 1780s, reminds us that Clapham once stood apart from London, that the surrounding area was pure countryside.
‘I love the scale and the balance of the rooms, there is something incredibly reassuring about the Georgian proportions — the windows give such an enormous light to it,’ he says.
As a decorator and designer, Gosling is in many ways a traditionalist, and the classical values and proportions that exist in his home and workplace exist in his craft also. I would describe his style as ‘Georgian Modern’ but Gosling counters that his taste is difficult to describe and that ‘style depends on the building you are designing for and the clients you are working with’. His influences are evident. Soane, Adams, Kent and also 20th-century figures such as Jean-Michel Frank and Mies van der Rohe. Gosling says that the first conversation with a client might be, ‘So you’ve got a Nash regency house, do you want to play with that in terms of proportion or do you want to play against it in a contemporary way? What are the rules? Is it Grade I listed?’
Walking into the Sycamore House, I see an enormous amount of wood stacked in neat squares on shelves. Veneers and solid blocks, in all colours and textures. This is a material that is enormously important to Tim Gosling, just as it is important for David Linley, for whom Gosling worked for many years. What is it about wood that is so attractive? ‘Its longevity,’ Gosling says. ‘The things I’m making should last us 400 years and in time they’ll develop a patina which should make them even more beautiful. I’m interested in combining wood with new materials, of being able to float very classical shapes.’
The use of wood, both in furniture and interiors, is one of Gosling’s ‘style signifiers’, as is his use of shagreen and vellum, materials more closely associated with continental art nouveau and art deco furniture. When looking at a room full of Gosling furniture, one is reminded, through his use of material and shape, of both an English country house and an art deco ocean liner. It is this look that has made Gosling so popular with clients.
He’s working on a large house in Regent’s Park at the moment, in which every piece of furniture has been made specifically for the room it will inhabit. Gosling has also just finished a major overhaul of the reception areas of the rather salubrious Nell Gwynn House on Sloane Avenue. The grand lobby is now a reflection of the glamorous pre-war age in which it was built — all chrome and leather.
‘There’s nothing more exciting or spine-tingling than standing in a space that you know has that gravitas to it and then looking at the pieces of furniture that you’re playing with.’
Prestel published a monograph on Gosling two years ago (Gosling, Classic Design for Contemporary Interiors) and he has just worked with the publisher Endeavour to produce London Secrets: A Draughtsman’s Guide a collection of his drawings of London buildings and interiors that may have been rarely seen or overlooked.
Gosling says that he draws every day and no matter what he is designing, architecture remains his primary influence. He sees Britain as a world leader in architectural design, but believes that when it comes to furniture making, its heritage is being lost.
‘You look at the 18th century and it was legendary, you could rattle off loads of names that shaped so many pieces of furniture in the world, and I think that in the last 100 years a very strange process has happened,’ he says.
‘It’s gone from being a studio of production to an artist working on their own. Inigo Jones, who designed the first classical building in England, also designed furniture. There wasn’t a segregation to say you are just a furniture designer or you are just an architect. In the last 100 years, people have wanted to pigeonhole it and ask, “Are you an interior designer or a furniture designer? What are you?”
OTHER DESIGNERS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Rose Uniacke’s roots are in the antiques business — beginning as a furniture restorer and guilder. Her style grew from it, but is by no means defined by it. Her pieces are elegant, and tastefully simple. As well as restoring furniture, she trawls Europe in search of pieces for her range. Based in Pimlico, the heart of London’s antiques world, her shop offers furniture ranging from the 17th to the 20th century, as well as lighting. The bespoke aspect of her store is also booming.
Veere Grenney has been at the forefront of the international design industry for more than 20 years. Before starting his own company, Veere was a director at Colefax and Fowler, where he honed his elegant, understated and classic style. To Veere, purity of design and quality of finish is foremost, but his style is also daring and his talent for incorporating mid-20th century design into his interiors ensure that he is much in demand.
Nicky Haslam is Britain’s most high-profile interior designer and has forged a career producing idiosyncratic and quintessentially British design since 1972. Nicky founded NH designs in the 1980s, specialising in high-end products, bespoke furnishing and grand, opulent style. Nicky has worked all over the globe and boasts clients from Lord Rothschild to Mick Jagger to the Prince of Wales.