Tete a Tat Christopher Hodsoll, 06/04/2023
An Interview With Christopher Hodsoll
In 2001 Architectural Digest featured Christopher Hodsoll's London home; in it, he talks about how when decorating, he might lend a client a temporary piece until they find the perfect version to go in their home. This is a great benefit for the organic development of a room, but, as Christopher laments, "too often people want to give the housewarming party and have everything finished and perfect all at once. Great rooms don't happen that way." The article was littered with these great pieces of advice, as well as Lulu Lytle, (who with Christopher Hodsoll, founded Soane in 1998), entertainingly referring to him as "the White Rabbit. All I see is him disappearing around the corner as he goes off, muttering something about being late. While other people are dreaming about projects, he's actually doing them."
Like many of you, I have dreamt of the work of Christopher Hodsoll for some time. I was first introduced to it by House & Garden, where his flat was featured in 1989. This was a few years after the death of Geoffrey Bennison, who Hodsoll had worked with on the Pimlico Road for several years. Geoffrey Bennison was famous as a grand international decorator, but he was also a fantastic antiques dealer, and credited by the renowned art historian Sir John Richardson with “some of the most imaginative and evocative interiors of our time”. When Bennison died in 1984, he left Hodsoll with partial ownership of his shop on the Pimlico Road, which was nearby Hodsoll’s own. Eventually, Hodsoll came to expand to five storefronts, drawing in global crowds taken with the ‘English Look’, including high-profile clients such as Jackie Onassis and the Rothschilds, as well as a healthy cross-section from the celebrity scene. As Hodsoll tells it in the previously mentioned AD article; “One day Gregory Peck walked in, and the housekeeper nearly wept with joy to see her hero. Another day Paul Simon arrived, but a very sophisticated nanny hardly noticed”.
Esteemed dealer, Guy Tobin, started out his career working with Hodsoll: “Post 9/11 I had lost my job and was working in a garden shop in Parsons Green. That autumn I was sweeping, leaves out in front of the shop when a dealer friend cycled past......he arranged an interview with Christopher. The front of the showroom rivalled Holkham. A pair of stone-white Kentian side tables, a dining table stretched the full length of the shop with a set of 20-odd dog head carved dining chairs and on the far wall the 'Toscanelli Cabinet' a riot of Tuscan carved wardrobe. No sign of the man but stamping on the floor above suggested I seek him out. A whiskey and a 7-year apprenticeship followed. It was a rollercoaster. Wonderful. I count myself very lucky to follow my trail of learning through those years with Hodsoll back to the years he spent learning from Geoffrey Bennison. A 'blue-blood' heritage in the antique-decorator industry”. Whether it was his start at Peter Twinings Gallery in Notting Hill or decorating the Duke of Edinburgh's 70th Birthday party, Christopher’s career has spanned such an important era of English design. He has created a bevy of iconic projects which have lodged themselves into the minds of many aspiring dealer decorator. I was exceedingly pleased that Christopher agreed to be, as he put it, a 'victim' of Tete a Tat.
Any good advice? Who gave it to you?
Life: constant flow of excellent advice from wife and four daughters.
Work: from Geoffrey Bennison “only work for clients with whom there is total rapport”. When I have not heeded this advice it has often gone awry, however have had the odd success with a sacred monster or two.
From Peter Twining: “use the largest scale piece of furniture, picture or tapestry that will fit the space”.
Plus plenty of good advice in Ben Pentreath’s articles in Weekend FT.
C: Sunshine yellow with a splash of burnt umber.
What is your favourite day of the week?
C: Saturday, no commitments and antique markets.
C: Wherever I hang my hat, not a baseball cap.
C: My wife’s stuff from Santa Maria Novell. When I had shops in Pimlico Road it was Joy, Jean Patou on stylish customers. For men, almost all from D.R. Harris.
Do you believe in ghosts?
C: Not at present, but should I become one I’ll have fun haunting a few deserving victims.
Do you like poetry? If so, what is your favourite poem?
C: No strong favourite, but the poems of Salena Godden and Rudyard Kipling.
What is the best moment in your career so far?
C: Major refurb of mid 18thC mansion in Mayfair, carte blanche, no instructions, no budget, finished in 6 months.
If you could share a meal with any four individuals, living or dead, who would they be?
C: I do not use that word, it's breakfast, lunch or dinner. (T: Noted)
Elizabeth II, Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, Marylyn Monroe. Guests chosen with a view to a convivial dinner. Seating plan: to my right the Queen, to my left Marylyn, the other two can choose their seats.
What is your favourite place in London?
C: The English Baroque room sets at the V&A Museum
What song always makes you tap your foot?
C: Sarabande, George Handel. The dance was banned in Spain for its obscenity.