A Robert Kime room

The English Look

19th June 2009

When is an auction not just an auction? Answer: when it’s the opportunity to indulge in the distinctive look of not one but four supreme arbiters of taste.

On Wednesday 8 July Christie’s South Kensington is offering the chance to acquire fascinating works of art from the collections of David Bedale, James Graham-Stewart, Robert Kime and Piers von Westenholz. All are discerning tastemakers who have made their names in the antiques world through adorning the homes of many distinguished clients. Each operates with a simple but abiding rule: that he cannot sell what he couldn’t live with. Each creates a lived-in country house ambience where an eclectic selection of English furniture and pictures are blended with exotic textiles, architectural fragments and natural history specimens. The English Look Sale promises style and elegance.

Over 500 lots will be offered, with many items heralding from classic country house sales that have taken place over the last 30 years including Castle Howard, Syon House, Scone Palace and Kedleston Hall. From further afield, there are pieces once owned by the Princes of Hanover, Liechtenstein and Baden-Baden, as well as that icon of the silver screen, Ava Gardner.

As these eminent collectors began to make room in their homes and warehouses (so they can continue collecting…), the English Look Sale was conceived – a varied and eclectic selection of English furniture, from the 17th century to the Arts and Crafts movement, including architect-designed furniture by Sir Edwin Lutyens, A.W.N. Pugin, Sidney and Edward Barnsley and William Morris, together with an incredible range of supporting lots: work by artists including William Nicholson, Robert Bevan, Rex Whistler and Richard Ansdell, Grand Tour photographs, Chinese vases, Ottoman fabrics, Oriental carpets, Islamic calligraphic tiles, Roman antiquities, even garden statuary.

So who are these men, whose quiet influence has shaped a generation of refined interiors?

Robert Kime is one of the country’s most esteemed interior decorators, with clients including HRH The Prince of Wales (Kime was involved in the remodelling of Clarence House), John Taylor of Duran Duran and his wife Gela of fashion label Juicy Couture. Kime began trading in antiques while reading history at Oxford University; today his businesses encompass fabric production, interior decorating and, of course, hand-picked antiques. His workshops and barns in Wiltshire contain a wealth of antiques and artefacts, plus his own range of fabrics, furniture and lighting.

A Susani-upholstered Ottoman, designed by Robert Kime, covered in Robert Kime limited edition fabric: a special edition for An English Look. Estimate: £1,500-2,500.

The Autumn of 2009 will see Kime open a new shop in Museum Street, London. Defined by his exceptional style, the shop will be divided into rooms through which clients can wander and choose as if from Kime’s own home.

“Having sold my house,” Kime says, “I am delighted to be part of this sale which allows me to offer a personal selection of antiques and works of art… I started forty years ago ‘living over the shop’ and won’t be surprised if this is how I end up – over another shop, but fifty yards from the greatest museum in the world.”

Piers von Westenholz loves houses, and is curious about how people live in them. He knows how to compose their contents for a stylish and convenient way of life. Eminent interior decorator David Mlinaric offers his distinguished view on the Baron: “Piers von Westenholz opened his shop more than 40 years ago and since then he has continuously… filled it with beautiful and unexpected furniture and objects. There is always something there, which one wants; even if one doesn’t need it, and one can see the individuality of his eyes in every single object. From the very early days his choices seemed unusual and therefore exciting. Sometimes there were objects of very high quality destined for collectors or museums, always a large stock of elegant pieces for furnishing houses and usually a bargain or two.”

After studying Art History at university James Graham-Stewart developed a passion for furniture during eight years in Christie’s furniture department. Following his immersion in the auction world he trained and worked as a cabinet-maker and has subsequently been dealing privately for 15 years, helping decorators and collectors furnish their houses.

With his exacting eye, it is the quality of the design, refinement and style that prevail as he searches out items with soul and resonance. Graham-Stewart specialises in unusual and interesting pieces, as far as possible in original condition and often with fascinating provenances. Drawn to the rare and the esoteric from all eras, he has a self-confessed horror of ‘polite’ furniture.

James Graham-Stewart comments: “This sale represents an opportunity for me to offer to a wider clientele some of the best pieces I have acquired over the last few years, all of which have a unique story to tell and an arcane sensibility, typical of what I find so fascinating about antique furniture and decorative objects.”

Based in Cheshire, David Bedale is an established name in the antiques world, having opened his first shop in 1977. Drawn to sophisticated yet unusual furniture and items, he has spent the last 30 years working alongside dealers and decorators to create unique, refined and stylish interiors without pretension, embracing a relaxed elegance that encourages a lived-in approach to interior decoration. He observes “In my formative years as a dealer I was greatly influenced by the leading lights of the antiques trade including Piers von Westenholz, Robert Kime and Geoffrey Stead, so I was very flattered when Piers asked me if I would join him to create ‘An English Look’ sale at Christies. I also have a great respect for James Graham Stewart and have no doubt that the four of us involved will be able to offer a truly unique collection of pieces representing the best of what we do.”

An English Look – Robert Kime, Piers von Westenholz, David Bedale and James Graham-Stewart – takes place on 8 July at Christie’s South Kensington: 85 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 3LD. See www.christies.com or call 020 7930 6074.

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