David Hicks, English designer of note, has had an enduring influence on modern design, up there with Nancy Lancaster and John Fowler of Colefax and Fowler in popularising a style that has continued on for decades, even if completely opposite directions with their aesthetics. Recently I've been reading his old design books, which are as fresh as if they were written today. His major period of influence was from the mid 1950's through to the late 80's (he died in 1998), and his strong geometric fabric and carpet designs, precise architectural placement of furniture, and the tablescapes he created (he coined the term) are still much aped, copied and adopted.

A black and white photo from "Living with Design", the layers of detail with geometric carpeting, layers of trim on the curtains, and the 3d fretwork wallpaper build texture and contrast.

A "Vibrating" colour palette of pink and red, and strong geometrics counterbalanced with white or solid colour are his signature

I hadn't really thought about where the look that I consider quintessentially American came from - the use of bold colour, clashing colour (or 'vibrating' as he termed it) palettes (red/orange/pink or green/blue/ acqua for instance), upholstered furniture such as the much copied x-bench or grasscloth covered side tables, or fully upholstered arms on armchairs, and the geometric pattern on pattern that he designed and produced for fabrics, wallpapers, sheets, carpets and rugs.

The current popularity of the bar table with mass arranged bottles of tonic etc started here via 

strong geometric carpet designed by Hicks via

He loved using lacquered walls for his schemes, and spent a great deal of time over lighting schemes with lamp placement, up and down lights and picture lights all being employed to light an interior with atmosphere. Lighting is absolutely the most important single element in a room, and his books are very inspiring in showing how he did it (before LED lights, and the tiny, strip LED or spots that we can now use).

Four of his books that I have

He was incredibly popular in the US, and travelled there often lecturing and on tours with some of the manufacturers that he licensed product to, and it was only when reading his old design books, which I have recently purchased out of print copies of (he wrote nine), that it struck me how fresh many of his designs still look, and how much he has influenced many of the big name interior designers that are practicing today in the US (as well as around the world).

Carpet at the Adelaide Festival Theatre - the books were overscaled for photo opportunities at Matilda, so you can see this carpet is quite bold.

Here in Adelaide, a trip to see the musical Matilda with my children at Adelaide's Festival Theatre last year made me look with fresh eyes at the Festival Theatre carpet (pictured above). It's Adelaide's premiere concert/ opera house in the city built in the 70's, and demonstrates that the original carpet design was certainly influenced by him (he was quite influential in Australia as well, with clients here that he would visit).

Tory Burch, the American fashion designer, has clearly been influenced by Hick's design ethos - she credits his style for her branding, and as the inspiration behind her first shop (as per an instagram post, above - her signature colour is orange, and her use of geometric pattern is very Hicks).

India Hick's "Legacy Letter" necklaces - based on David Hick's geometric alphabet designs via

Tory Burch's logo is also very Hicks in style - he created an entire geometric alphabet, which his daughter, India Hicks, has recreated as necklaces, and also in her own branding of her lifestyle company.

Much of Tory Burch's new Spring/ Summer '18 collection has been influenced by strong geometric and saturated colour palettes, which she credited as being inspired by Hicks, after his most recent book was released - Scrapbooks, edited by his son Ashley Hicks.

My favourite of his books is his later "Living with Design". As a primer on Interiors it's excellent, and much of it is still relevant and fresh today. Explaining lighting, placement of objets as tablescapes on coffee or side tables, furniture placement and room arrangements, It's up there with the Terance Conran series on design books... much of which is now regurgitated in other Designer's books.... but there's no replacing the originals.

via Quadrille , a Hick's style geometric wallpaper wrapped up onto the ceiling, and Roman blinds with a border tape by Ashley Whittaker in House Beautiful March 2018

It's rare to find true creatives in this world - and while his self publicity can be slightly grating at times (there are many, many references to the family connection to the British Royal family by both David Hicks and his daughter India in their self publicity to sell themselves to the American market presumably) he was a true original in his design style. His colour choices, fabric designs and carpet designs can be still found at Stark carpets in the US, and also in fabric collections by companies such as Quadrille/ China Seas, also in the US.

The one thing that I reflected on after reading all the books, and recognising the style that Hick's developed as quite "American" in my thinking, was that it was quite an irony that what we think of as a quintessential English Country house style of decorating (worn patina, mismatched fabrics, slipcovers, antiques) was developed by an American (Nancy Lancaster, the driving force behind the English firm Colefax and Fowler), and yet conversely the style that I think is quintessentially American (saturated colour, strict furniture geometry, the importance placed on lighting and lamps, geometric fabrics and trim such as greek key) was in fact introduced by an Englishman. Both styles have endured, and both have become a signature for the countries in which they became popular. The Hicks legacy has endured through his son Ashley Hicks, a talented designer in his own right (Sculpture, Interiors and editor of books on his father), and through his daughter India Hicks, a former model for Ralph Lauren, prolific with coffee books revolving around her house in Harbor Island, a range of soaps and perfumes at Crabtree and Evelyn, and most recently, a new lifestyle brand that has launched in the US selling bags, skincare, jewellery and scarfs.

If you haven't come across the books before then I recommend them to you highly - well worth hunting down. It's fascinating to think that a look now developed 60 years ago can still look so current today.


  1. Heidi thank you for this post, there is certainly a singular look to the David Hicks style. Tory Burch really does echo so many of his ideas! I do like her shops, they are so layered with colour and shape, they seem quite luxurious and instantly recognizable. xxx

    1. It's a very identifiable look Dani, I think once you're familiar with his work you can spot it. I do love the way Tory Burch has used his colour palette and graphic look so well. That dress she has on in the instagram picture is fab! xx

  2. Great post, I adore the vibrancy and daring of David Hicks work & I also admit to having a massive girl-crush on his beautiful daughter India Hicks. Such a remarkable family with a great political & design legacy.

    1. India has done a lot to keep carrying the flag of design for the family, as has Ashley. They've definitely got the knack - I've always loved the way India decorated her house - completely different to her father's style, but a lot of the underlying ethos is still there.

  3. I do like his style and I wish I paid more attention when I was in his hotel in Tokyo before it went. They tried to have it listed but with space at a premium they couldn't maintain it. I was tempted to get his books but I have no more space and if anything I am trying to edit rather than accumulate. Burch is only ever influenced - but i won't go there LOL x

    1. Lucky you to have stayed at his hotel!! Sad that it wasn't able to be listed - I wonder how many spaces he designed are still as they were? His books are very good - the Living with Design is excellent... maybe you could fit in one? I know what you mean about Tory... that's a different post though!! xx

  4. Heidi, Love this post. Have long been fascinated by the Hicks family and their Mountbatten relatives. (There is an old family myth that my father's family was somehow connected with Edwina's family. Certainly my father's older brother, who was commander of a small Australian naval vessel in the Mediterranean during the war, was a number of times hosted to private dinners by Mountbatten as a family connection.) It was wonderful as part of the English garden tour of 2013 to have been able to visit the Hicks family garden and meet Ashley who escorted us around with stories about the garden planning and his father. He was refreshingly funny and self deprecating. This was before he'd met Kata, his second wife, and he seemed to be living there alone (after his first marriage ended in divorce) with his mother, Lady Pamela. I read somewhere Lady P quoted as saying how much she loved Kata as she's made Ashley so happy. If you follow him on Instagram you see that he is now a doting father of a son, Caspian (as well as daughters with his first wife).
    Have several of the books about David Hicks, including the latest "Scrapbooks" and enjoy dipping into them for fun - but don't have your skilled eye and knowledge.
    Best wishes, Pammie

    1. I so wish I'd been on that garden tour too!! I'd love to see The Grove in person - he's clearly influenced Paul Bangay, and his architectural approach to everything is very appealing to me. Yes, follow Ashley and Kata who are both very funny, and also India. I haven't bought Scrapbooks, and wasn't sure if it would be as inspiring as the ones he wrote himself - more a bio in a way? Maybe I should get it once I've ploughed through my book backlog! xx

  5. Hellow Heidi,

    Now I know who to blame for that dreadful term "tablescape". Ugh! I think it is as bad as "curate" if you know what I mean.

    I never made the connection between Hicks and Burch but yes, definitely an influence there.

    1. Tablescape is a dreadful term!! But I do think it's been taken in vain by others - his tablescapes were very rigorously done, and beautifully arranged - just enough, not too much. So many words that are awfully overused, and I can't stand the term curate either! x

  6. The American Style isn't hard for me and many others to recognize in literature, music, movies, and most Art but nothing I see with Hicks strikes a familiar cord as American except the Overbranding. I do remember the geometric thing being overdone in the '70s and if Tory Burch succeeds with Geometric themed fashion then all is lost.

    I've no doubt that Hicks is considered American by Design Pros like yourself and of course the Shelter Mags that shill all the styles/trends that their advertisers have on offer.

    That pink/red really does vibrate and I've never noticed that before.

    I'd much prefer your guidance over anything from these Hicks Hacks.

    1. I suspect it's not a mass appeal look in the US, but it's very much something I identify as American - from Shelter mags as you say, but it has a preppiness to it with the graphics and colours. It's quite idiosyncratic, and from a designers viewpoint there are many US fabric ranges that have that colour palette and graphic geometric fabric designs in their ranges that I don't see elsewhere. I'd say the mass look is probably more Pottery Barn inspired? But the lighting is definitely a stand out for me - I've always thought that American designers/ consumers are much better with lighting through lamps (and have a huge range to choose from) than anywhere else in the world. He definitely uses light in an interesting way that maybe then he borrowed from the US at the time?

  7. Hello Heidi,
    interesting post as usual.
    I wonder if you have thoughts on what an "Australian style" might be? Have you detected the development of such a style? Are any designers or decorators particularly recognised as having a distinctly Australian style?
    My own thoughts would be that Australia is simply to big to have an homogenous style. Melbourne style simply would not go in Cairns. For example, I recall that when my Sydney based parents retired to the Gold Coast, that all their Sydney furniture looked ridiculous in the light bright more casual environment.

    1. I think Judith, as you say, that Australia is too geographically diverse to have a set look. I went to an Anna Spiro fabric launch last week, and spoke to Anna afterwards... I commented that I thought her hibiscus print fabric would be a hard sell here, as it is too tropical in feel for our climate, which is very mediterranean (and she agreed with that - the others in her range would fit in easily). But I think there is an Australian style, which you see with kitchens/ bathrooms/ modern house extensions. I can usually pick an Australian house in an overseas magazine spread - but it's perhaps a difficult thing to pinpoint. Lots of white, big windows drawing the outside in, an airiness perhaps are the unifying themes? xx

    2. Thanks for replying. I like some elements of Anna Spiro's designs.(I have her book and at least one cushion). Apart from her occasional tropical inspirations, and her commercial projects, I think that much of her style could perhaps be described as "modern Australian country house". A sort of Australian interpretation of English Country House - lots of mismatched fabrics, antique elements and over the top art hangings. I certainly agree that BIG windows, open plan layout and white utility rooms are signature elements of Oz design. J


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