Monday, September 28, 2009

Enough palaces on his hands

"Its very strange. When I moved in here I never even thought of consciously decorating the place. Geoffrey Bennison was a friend and at that moment in the throes of doing up the Rothschilds and Princess Firyal and heaven knows whom. It was completely unexpected when he suddenly said he had enough palaces on his hands and would love to do a small job again, and could he make this little house into a country cottage. A few days later the legend came round again and told me all his suggestions. Naturally I was unsure at first, though now I can't believe I ever lived without them. I pretty soon came round to his way of thinking. That's where Geoffrey was so clever ... and polite ...; he was never bossy, never let me feel that he was making all the decisions, which of course he was. He never said you can't have all your hideous bits, but he gradually managed to get my eye in, to make me see how the rooms would look better with a seemingly minute bit of one wall removed, say, or how my things could look actually beautiful arranged in the ways he suggested ... just as I try to do with people's gardens, I suppose."

"As I say, it took forever, but I never minded as it was so thrilling to watch it all come together. Geoffrey was immensely careful, and never spendthrift. I think he would have been happier if the budget had been bigger ... so would I for that matter, I feel he could not have done it for less. He gave his time in abundance, and his attention to each, last miniscule detail was amazing. He sometimes changed things that looked absolutely fine to me .... and then you saw the difference."

A tribute from a friend, a garden designer, told to Nicholas Haslam in the mid-1980s after Geoffrey Bennison's death.

From WoI, with photos by Tom Leighton.


  1. This post felt like we were at a wonderful dinner party and you were telling this marvelous story, engrossing everyone with the details and the layers of who told whom. Isn't it amazing to see THE EYE of genius? One small turn, and a whole new world appears in seeming perfection. Another glass of wine, perhaps?

  2. I think another would be appropriate.