Porte-Cochere entry from the street, with mature trees and marble and stone inlaid path and entry

I've been cleaning up my studio, and flicking through my old files of tear sheets, most from the 90's and early 2000's - long before digital magazines, websites and Pinterest took over. It's been interesting to see firstly what I was interested enough in to tear out back then, but also what has stood the test of time. 

Villa Beckwith

One that had interested me enormously at the time (90's, Belle Magazine) was an Italianate villa on the Swan River in Perth, Western Australia. It was built by Peter and Valerie Beckwith, who were inspired by the villas along Lake Como in Italy. They named it "Villa Beckwith" and it cost a reputed $18 Million to build, with the blocks of land they purchased (three separate houses were purchased and demolished) running down to the Swan River from Jutland Parade, Dalkeith - true Millionaire's Row in Perth.

side garden with antique French statue

Peter Beckwith was a Managing Director at Bondcorp, one of Australia's biggest companies in the 80's, that collapsed spectacularly leaving shareholders with nothing, and that resulted in most of the directors facing court over allegations of fraud, and the founder, Alan Bond eventually (after many attempts at evasion with a conveniently failing memory...) doing jail time. 

entry hall with inlaid marble floors

Peter Beckwith died of a brain tumour before he was hauled up before the courts, and his widow put the house on the market. It's a rather sad story in many ways, but it exemplifies the excesses of the 80's and was done to such a high standard, that I thought it was an interesting project to feature.  

Stair foyer with the chandelier from an Irish Castle

The house was designed by the renowned late Sydney based Architect Espie Dods, who specialised somewhat in a classical aesthetic and a high net worth client base. Interiors were designed by the late Lady Victoria Waymouth, who flew out from London and oversaw every detail for the 4 years that it took to build and decorate.  The house was completed in 1990, just a few months before Peter Beckwith died, and was finally sold in 1996 for $8.5 Million, a record in Perth at the time, but far below its original build cost. 

casual living and kitchen area

a glimpse of the kitchen, built in Germany

Every detail was considered in this house, which was to be the family's long term residence. Antique street lights from Chile on council land led to the front gates and the stone and marble forecourt and porte-cochere. The entry features a chandelier reputedly from an Irish Castle and that cost £35,000 at the time, specialist paint finishes contractors were flown out to lavish attention on the tiniest detail - rooms were stencilled by men who had previously worked on the restoration of the Sistine Chapel. Cornices were wrapped around into closets and all soft furnishings were trimmed with passementerie and made in England. The kitchen was designed and built in Germany before being shipped over for installation. The gardens featured Antique marble statues imported from France, and mature trees that were craned in to give an established feel. 

Formal Living room with beautifully made curtains and stencilled borders on the walls in soft ochre, green and red

Here you can see the wall stencilling and trim detail

These images always looked a little empty to me - I'm not sure that the family was inhabiting the house at the time of its sale. Perhaps a reader in Perth might know? There are none of the bits and pieces of family life around - photos in frames, artwork of substance... bedside tables are empty of all but lamps. 

Valerie Beckwith's bedroom with cream lace curtains to filter the Perth sun, and a cream and soft blue/ red scheme

some of the detail from the curtains - cream fan edge fringe, and the lining in the sprigged fabric, a tieback in cream and blue

The daughter's bedroom in pink and green

The daughter's bedroom with stencilled wall and a ragged paint finish

The matching ensuite bathroom

Another view of the rather exuberant tile scheme for the ensuite

The son's ensuite bathroom, with another interesting tile choice. I remember this being all the rage in the 90's

Pool area

The house has gone on to be sold several times since then, with the last listing in 2011. Sadly from the photos it looks like it was given a big dose of white paint, and the beautifully made curtains are gone - shiny purple ones in the casual living room were certainly not original. Valerie Beckwith's green and cream and blue sprigged curtains in her bedroom are replaced with gilded valances, her daughter's bedroom with its green and pink stencilled walls is now a shade called bland. Certainly while some aspects of the original schemes are very dated now, remembering that this house was decorated nearly 30 years ago gives some perspective on the fact that the quality in this makes the interiors stand up to the test of time. 

The casual living room now with purple curtains

The formal living - gone are the green curtains and hand stencilled walls

Valerie Beckwith's bedroom today - the valances on the windows were kept and gilded

The daughter's bedroom today with green walls gone and rather dispiriting curtains

The property was subdivided in 2005 and side blocks including the croquet lawn were sold off for development

The new kitchen as of the 2011 real estate listing

Floor plan from 2011 listing

Overall what I liked about this house and the reason why I kept these tear sheets for so long was the very, very high standard everything was done to - the bones are fantastic and of the highest quality, with world class designers involved. The other thing was that the Tuscan and Provencal style, which became so highly fashionable in the 90's and which has now fallen out of favour, was so well suited to our climate here in Australia. This house looks quite place appropriate with its shutters and Mediterranean date palms in the front garden, far more so than the Georgian style which replaced it in the 2000's. Everything revolves in design though, and it will be interesting to see when this style makes a comeback.

Hope you enjoyed this trip back in time.

Photographs: Robert Frith, Belle Magazine, early 90's with accompanying article written by Anne-Louise Willoughby.

2011 real estate photos were via realestate.com.au

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.
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Architect & Interior Designer. Mother of three. A sometimes Cook, Baker, Reader, Gardener, Fashion Lover, Renovator, Writer of random things in South Australia email me on anadelaidevilla@bigpond.com
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