Do you remember those iconic Vanity Fair covers of the 90s and 00s, the ones that folded out, with a quality and mass of celebrity that was just jaw-dropping? Well, my one idea at House & Garden was to do the same with 'The Real Influences of Interiors'. So my one idea was a copy of a very famous and well-established concept. Genius. Either way, I believe House & Garden did a gorgeous shoot with 'The Greats', which I can hold no claim to; but one thing that remained the same in both my imaginary fold-out and H&Gs actual shoot was that this week’s Tete a Tat was front and centre in both.
Veere Grenney has created some iconic homes and, if the 'likes' on Instagram are anything to go by, has set off waves of inspiration around the globe. But unlike today's budding interior designers, his career did not start with an internship or course. Instead, it began at home in Dunedin, New Zealand. In his book ‘Veere Grenney: On Decorating’, he recalls his mother's love of aesthetics: 'I shared my mother's beautiful things and intense enjoyment of auctions. We moved house often, so there were frequent opportunities for renovation and decoration. As a child, the greatest treat of all time was if she let me rearrange the lounge.'
But even on the other side of the world, England called out to a young Veere Grenney. English magazines opened up his eyes to the work of Max Glendinning and ignited a lifelong admiration for the work of David Hicks. So in his early 20s, Grenney decided to make the move to London. It took him many months of travel, almost all of it by land, by way of India, Iran, and Afghanistan. When he arrived in London, he moved between the homes of friends and the occasional squat, but after a year in London, his search for inspiration drew him onwards to Morocco. He arrived in Tangier alone at 23 and met a host of compelling characters. As Grenney puts it in his book; “Tangier used to be a refuge for Europeans who wanted to live in a less constricted way. It was the mid-seventies, the days of those rackety old queens”. He met writer David Herbert, composer Paul Bowles, Colefax and Fowler Associate Mickey Raymond, and Art Historian Richard Timewell. It was the latter’s house that made a lasting impression on Grenney: "It was the manifestation of everything one had ever dreamed of growing up in suburban New Zealand, all in one spot…A beautiful house full of wonderful English furniture and pictures and this cacophony of French, English, and Moroccan campery and God-knows-what in a colonial style in a colonial country." (AD Visits Veere Grenney's Magical Moroccan Hideaway)
After travelling all over Morocco, he came back to London. As his constant trailing around auction houses would demonstrate, Grenney always loved antique furniture. He knew he wanted to be a designer but didn't know how to start that journey. So he began with a simple stall on Portobello, which later graduated into a shop on Westbourne Grove. Here he met a variety of people in the trade, one of whom was Mary Fox Linton, who he subsequently trained under for several years, before later being offered a position at Colefax & Fowler by Tom Parr. As Grenney explains to Justin Van Breda on Tea For Two, “It was the most important part of my career in a way because what I learnt and experienced at Colefax was so extraordinary; their unbelievable understanding of beauty through discipline, tailoring, cut and style, it's like saying suddenly at the age of forty I am going to be a couturière because Colefax has a reputation for couture.” He left Colefax & Fowler, having become a director and started his own company (Veere Grenney Associates), which has been running with great acclaim for over two decades.
It's hard to believe that one man can have had such an illustrious career. His designs have become iconic, and his own homes are widely admired. He has the strength of versatility while also managing to keep his signature of organisation and comfort. As Architectural Digest puts it, 'the designer mixes modernity and classicism, the humble and the grand, but especially beauty and comfort.'
Click here to follow Veere Grenney
Click Here To Buy 'Veere Grenney: On Decorating: A Point of View'
Favourite Piece of Clothing?
When I am in Tangier I adore wearing a djellaba, but in this London weather, I am never without my Uniqlo puffer!
Any good advice? Who gave it to you?
Christopher Gibbs “ Money upfront"
Top Destination in the UK?
Holy Island off the West Coast of Scotland
If you could be a fly on the wall, where would you land?
Maria Angelli’s house in Morocco
To wear Polo Ralph Lauren but in a room an Odalisque candle by Trudon
List two pet peeves? (eg One of mine is people not saying thank you when you hold the door open)
I am going to sound like a very old man now, but a real peeve is people walking down the street with their mobile on speakerphone – who wants to know what they are having for dinner?
A restaurant you never get tired of?
5 Hertford Street on a Monday night i.e. with no wannabes
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Up until I discovered decoration at the age of 12, I really wanted to be a vicar
Do you believe in Star Signs?
What song always makes you tap your foot?
Anything by Fleetwood Mac