At Home With John Richardson, the Master of 'Aristocratic Bohemian' Interior Design

Author:
Publish date:
Updated on

When celebrated British art historian and Pablo Picasso biographer Sir John Richardson passed away in March, the world lost not only a cultural icon but one of the masters of an eclectic style dubbed 'aristocratically bohemian.' A new book from Rizzoli, John Richardson: At Home, which the author and critic completed before he died, offers what would be a voyeuristic glimpse into the rich world he inhabited, had not Richardson himself invited us in.

Richard lived in numerous stately homes and apartments over the years in various locales from New York City to the English countryside and a French chateau, all characterized by beautiful architecture and in many cases interesting history as well. However he never decorated to suit one particular era or architectural style.

“Period rooms tend to bore me in that they are confined to a specific style," Richardson notes in the book. Of his design ethos he says, "it's an instinctive process, beyond my control. I mix things – good, bad, and indifferent, from all civilizations and periods, and they galvanize each other... into a coherent ensemble."

Thus his rooms are full of Asian ceramics, classical ornaments, English and American antiques, richly layered textiles, bold colors, decorative objects that caught his discerning eye on world travels, loads of books, and works of art by legendary artists who were also close friends, including Picasso, Lucian Freud, and Andy Warhol.

The book is, in Rizzoli's words, a "gloriously illustrated residential autobiography of a true connoisseur," that makes essential reading for those interested art, culture and design as well as "grandly livable interiors" and the good life in general. 

Viewing his opulent residences and regal collections, it's hard to imagine that for many years after first arriving in New York Richardson was, as he put it, "a foreigner with few contacts, little cash and no job." Selling a small Picasso to finance his first apartment on the Upper East Side, he set about creating his first apartment using mostly secondhand and borrowed items.

The result was a mix of "faded grandeur and seedy stylishness" which he never quite abandoned even as the grandeur lost its fade and his stylishness became decidedly more fashionable. There's loads of inspiration in the book, now available on Amazon, for anyone who thinks their living spaces should reflect the actual events and interests of their lives.