Behind the design: The inspirational, & rather lovely, Ashley Hicks

ACHICA Living chats to designer Ashley Hicks to find out what makes him tick. We discuss his legendary father David Hicks, Ashley's love of tribal and Renaissance art and his penchant for watching episodes of How I Met Your Mother with his daughters...

You’ve obviously grown up in a very creative environment, working with your father, the acclaimed interior designer David Hicks, before setting up your own practise designing furniture and interiors. But, what attracts you most to design?

It’s in my blood, I suppose, hard to resist! Unsurprisingly, having grown up with a designer father, I’ve been obsessed with designing things since I was quite young. I spent too many school lessons, I’m afraid, filling exercise books with detailed designs for sophisticated cars, weapons, secret agent gear, yachts, anything really.

My design for an especially elegant intercontinental ballistic missile, done in a Latin class aged 11, somehow got mixed up with my father’s archives in the V&A and catalogued with his interiors, which made me laugh.

So the attraction was a natural one. What keeps me at it is that I love it. The excitement of drawing something and seeing it made, whether it’s a fabric or a building, never fades. I also find it stimulating to do David Hicks style things one week (collections of fabrics, carpet, tiles, etc) and Ashley Hicks furniture or interiors the next.

What’s the best thing about being a designer?

Being able to surround yourself with your own creations, finely tuned to exactly the way you want to live. It’s the ultimate in bespoke. I’m my own favourite, but also most discerning, client.

[Above: Ashley Hick's Atlas table]

You divide your time between London and your home in Oxfordshire, but which do you prefer – city or country?

I love both equally, though I spend slightly more time in the country, as my main studio is there and I work better in peace and quiet. But both have equal allure – the country with its beauty, changing seasons, and calm solitude, and London with its buzz and vitality. In town I’m lucky enough to live a short walk from the V&A and spend hours in its galleries getting inspiration, which is then fused with my love of natural forms like tree roots and stones that I pick up in the country.

[Above: Sabre table from Ashley Hicks]

How do your home styles differ in your city and country places or do you have one strict style?

I’m doing up my London home now, in a rather sharper, more urbane way than the country, with occasional precious materials like an onyx tabletop and one in white shagreen, which would be totally out of place in the country, as would a bright orange perspex desktop, and a big window with an ugly view that I’ve blocked with a huge transparency of a Baroque church interior, which acts like a lightbox. None of that would feel right with dirty wellies in the hall.

What’s your favourite piece of furniture?

William Burges’ washstand from his guest room at Tower House, his mad castellated home in Kensington. In the V&A, it’s a crazy, deeply personal, fantasy piece, combining historical allusions with an ingeniously practical design and painted decoration, all things that I love. If you mean favourite piece of my own furniture, though, it’s the X-Frame Ottoman, which is the ideal centre piece for any living room, and has beautiful lines (he said modestly).

What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on?

The most recent is always the most exciting, honestly. I especially love the variety of what I do. This morning I was painting a faux mosaic faceted tabletop for myself; this afternoon I start designing the first of 15 villas for a new development in Sardinia.

Which fellow designers and artists inspire you in your work and how do you find your daily inspiration?

I’m sorry to say that they’re mostly dead, like Jean-Michel Frank, Pelagio Palagi, Sir John Soane and my father. But I love Mattia Bonetti’s work, for example, Mariana Kennedy and Rolf Sachs. My inspirations come in many forms: tribal art, renaissance interiors, Pre-Columbian gold, Samurai armour, a bathroom painted by Corot, etc etc. I show my own pictures of a lot of them, Places and Things, on my website.

[Above: Sir John Soane Museum]

What’s your best interior design tip for anyone about to embark on a project to redesign the home?

For a living room, draw a furnishing plan at a scale of 1:50 – it’s really not hard – and think seriously about what will fit where, how people will sit, where they can put a drink.

Which three products could you not live without?

Flos TAB table lights by Barber Osgerby on my desk (example below). They give the best light and look great. My VW Passat, which is simply the most practical and efficient thing in my life. And my own new iPad stand, the TréPad, without which I couldn’t read the news with my breakfast.

[Above: Ashley Hicks Echo Table]

Tell us one thing we don’t know about you?

I doubt anyone is even slightly interested in me-trivia. If you insist, my idea of a REALLY good time is watching How I Met Your Mother in my seaweed-green cinema with my daughters in their matching Onesies. We LOVE Barnie Stinson. He’s legen… wait for it… dary!

Check out the wonderful Ashley Hicks promotion at ACHICA, which is on until 7am Friday 20th January 2012.

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Emily Peck, Editor

View all posts by Emily Peck, Editor