Twenty-eight years ago I bought my first issue of The World of Interiors and was immediately captivated, especially by an article about Grange House, the redecoration of which was done by David Hicks for a London businessman and his family. Grange House seemed to me to be the most comfortable and stylish of English country houses - not too grand, nothing pompous and actually great fun.
Imagine, then, my surprise when - and I don't remember precisely how much later - I discovered that the name of the house and its owners were completely fictitious. I've never found the explanation for the subterfuge and it could be there is an official one somewhere, but I missed it.
The story is this, and I quote the writer of the article:
"David Hicks' most recent, and coincidentally one of his favourite, commissions was to redesign Grange House - a pretty, rather small farm-house in Oxfordshire - for a London businessman, Peter Westbury, his American wife, Louise, and their two children. He confesses that the reason he enjoyed the job so much was due mainly to the Westbury's sense of style and taste - a style so much attuned to his own that he became involved in redesigning their garden as well.....
"The Hicks' maxim - that he sees himself merely as an interpreter of his client's taste - never once presented a difference of opinion in the case of Grange House. He was dealing, too, with a family who had formerly lived in a much grander house and who had quite a collection of possessions; so they were able to chose the best of these, which give the house its distinct personal style."
By now you're probably saying "but, I thought that house was ..." and you'd be right. Grange House was, in fact, The Grove, and Peter and Louise Westbury were David and Pamela Hicks - their former "much grander house" being Britwell House.
The story as presented is quite cohesive, with lots of telling, or misleading, details - for example:
"Although Grange House is fairly old - early 18th century - with a double-height drawing-room added on in 1825, it clearly couldn't be too grand, except for the drawing-room, where David Hicks felt justified in adding a stately touch or two. But, because Peter and Louise were used to living in more generous surroundings, he felt that he had to give them a sense of scale to get away, as much as possible, from the existing cottagey atmosphere.....