BOOK REVIEW: On the Fringe

On the Fringe

A Life in Decorating

By Imogen Taylor

Pimpernel Press


This is a page-turner combination of autobiography and the author’s long and distinguished career at Colefax and Fowler. She was a fitting heir to both Nancy Lancaster and John Fowler’s decorating vision.  She started at the firm in 1949 and when John Fowler retired in 1971 he handed his clients, including HM The Queen, over to her. She was until her retirement (1999) the firm’s principal decorator alongside Tom Parr.

With clients in the Middle East, America and the United Kingdom we see through her work how the Colefax & Fowler country house style evolved to reflect the current day but throughout it all she never lost her ‘perfect taste’.

One meets famous clients such as the Windsors, Dolly Rothschild, Harry Hyams and John Aspinall as well as fellow colleagues, including a young Duchess of Cornwall.  We also learn about the techniques used in creating these highly liveable-in interiors including the legendary ‘twelve different whites’.

I was interested to read that the late celebrated violinist Iona Brown was a friend as I too had known her when I was briefly at the Academy of St Martin-in-the Fields. I was fortunate enough to meet Imogen Taylor recently at the Hatchards’ Christmas Evening and congratulated her on this delightful book that greatly adds to the history of Colefax and Fowler and the continuing story of interior decoration in this country.

Room Portraits by Jeremiah Goodman

Jeremiah – Inspired Interiors, Room Portraits by Jeremiah Goodman, Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler, 39 Brook Street, London W1, until 5th December 2016


To me this is the perfect subject for the last exhibition that Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler will host in the famous Yellow Room, so beloved by Nancy Lancaster, before they finally move out completely to Pimlico Road and Fulham Road. It has been curated by Dean Rhys Morgan.


The American artist Jeremiah Goodman (b. 1922) is renowned for his evocative pictures of interiors. After studying at the Franklin School of Professional Art he became a successful advertising illustrator with his work appearing in magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, and Interior Design Magazine. It will come as no surprise that his work attracted the interest of architects, industrial and interior designers.


Goodman was always interested in creating portraits of interiors but a meeting with the renowned actor Sir John Gielgud in 1948 changed things.  Jeremiah sums it up: ‘Before I met him I painted interiors for my own pleasure, but he invited me to England, where I went in 1949, and began to introduce me to his friends. It was all very Brideshead Revisited and I found myself in the company of people like Cecil Beaton, John Fowler and Ivor Novello. I was invited to stay in glorious country houses.’ Since then he has been creating portraits of rooms from the homes of the rich and famous.


His distinctive informal style – often using transparent watercolour and opaque gouache on illustration board – perfectly captures details on textiles and the patterns of light in these exquisite rooms. These room portraits are the perfect finale for the Yellow Room and I seriously encourage you to see them.