Renowned interior designer Nicky Haslam is responsible for some of the most exclusive sitting rooms in the world. From stately homes across the land to New York penthouses and villas in Cap de Ferrat, he has long been the arbiter of good taste in upholstery, and has been invited to all the best parties since his time at American Vogue in the 60s, where he passed Joan Didion tissues as she wept over unsuccessful love affairs, and partied at Studio 54. On paper, his lifestyle seems to be made up of soigné soirees, his crammed timetable a mash up of Bright Young Things extravagance tempered with Jilly Cooper tongue in cheek; yet for over 40 years NH Design has been at the forefront of the interior design industry, creating homes for the likes of Mick Jagger, both Saatchi brothers and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
Here, in Jefferson Hack’s personal interpretation of the iconic Proust Questionnaire, Haslam opens up about his proudest moments, a love of gossip and driving in the dark to meet Elvis Presley.
What are you thinking of right now?
“I don’t think, therefore I am”, Jean Cocteau’s epigram on Mistinguette.
What makes you laugh?
Pekingese puppies and Sandi Toksvig.
What makes you cry?
Courage, physical and emotional.
What do you consider to be the greatest invention?
The flushing lavatory.
Do you have a mentor or inspirational figure who has guided or influenced you?
David Ogilvy, genius musician and producer, who has masterminded my CD, “Midnight Matinee”, released on July 3.
Where do you feel most at home?
In the bath.
"What do you most like about the age we live in?"
Where are you right now?
At the Carlyle Hotel, New York, not in the bath.
What is your proudest achievement in work?
All my interior designs….though designing is such a joy it can hardly be called work.
What is your proudest achievement in life?
Being on Desert Island Discs.
What do you most dislike about contemporary culture?
While we are all informed, we are shockingly under-cultured. It’s bad that children behave like mini-adults, but much worse that adults behave like mindless children.
What do you most like about the age we live in?
At what points do life and work intersect?
Every moment, every hour, every day.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
“Il faut oser d’etre heureux”. (Gertrude Stein).
What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
Some people might think it was having a facelift.
Recommend a book or poem that has changed your perspective on life?
"Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer…” (Yeats).
What is your earliest childhood memory?
Listening to Nat Gonella singing “The Isle of Capri” on the wireless in my mother’s bedroom.
What’s the most important relationship in your life?
My colleagues at NH Design.
What’s the most romantic action you’ve taken?
Driving in the dark up Coldwater Canyon to meet Elvis Presley.
What’s the most spiritual action you’ve taken?
Tracing the birthplace of my Austrian nanny in Syria.
If you could wish for one change in the world what would it be?
That sugar would be banned. Read Pure, White and Deadly by John Yudkin and Robert Lustig.