On selling La Fiorentina to the Harding Lawrences, Roderick Cameron removed to the smaller and nineteenth-century Le Clos Fiorentina which, in turn, was sold to Sao Schlumberger who called on David Hicks to decorate it.
Hicks' decoration of a house he knew well, having stayed there a number of times during Cameron's ownership, judging by the grainy photographs, is as fresh and up-to-date as it was when first published thirty-two years ago. It's a cliche to say that photographs speak for themselves, but nonetheless they do and because of it I feel there's little more to be said about an interior by David Hicks that hasn't already been said elsewhere.
Gardens designed by Roderick Cameron, built in a succession of smaller gardens on a terraced hillside and so beautiful it was they that drew the new owner to buy the house they surrounded. David Hicks, intent on preserving the gardens during the year-long remodel of the house and the building of a swimming pool, had a bridge built over which trucks could drive without damaging the planting. So delighted with them was Hicks that he referred to them again, though by this time the gardens were no longer owned by the Schlumbergers, in his book, My Kind of Garden.
I have spent some time writing about Roderick Cameron - someone who until recently had not, other than when I remembered his house at Menerbes, impinged too much on my consciousness. Only as part of my delving into 1970s and 1980s decoration has he become apparent, but I must say – and perhaps I am finding significance where there is none – but it really seems to me that Roderick Cameron holds an influential if not crucial place in twentieth-century decorating. At first, to me, a shadowy figure, but one who through his friends' comments, his client's trust in him, and what his employees have had to say brings the man into clearer focus.
Roderick Cameron did not generate a style, but worked within a mode that we have come to recognize as a way of making a house welcoming, comfortable, reasonable and, above all, suitable. Cameron never became a famous decorator in the way his friends did - Baldwin, Truex, Hicks - all names still well-known well after their deaths - and finding what he created has been a bit of a journey and worth every minute.
There are many decorators and designers who, on reaching a certain maturity and fame, have titles as such as Dean bestowed on them. And what a frightening title it must be to receive - almost like having one foot in the grave. Oh, I know, accolades such as this are pretty meaningless in the great scheme of things, but if such a title were to be given posthumously it could, in my opinion, be bestowed on Roderick Cameron.
Most of the men of Roderick Cameron's circle were gay - some not but, as we would say nowadays, straight but not narrow. These were the men who, living in a society hostile to their nature, built their own networks, their own clubs, and whilst existing in a DADT relationship with their clients, nonetheless created some of the most memorable interiors ever to grace a photographer's lens - men who took place with the lady decorators, those powerful women who founded the business and had reigned for nearly half a century.
Photographs by Pascal Hinous to accompany text by Susan Heller Anderson for Architectural Digest, January/February 1978.
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