People with Passion: Lady Caroline Percy
A passion for the past – on her amazing doorstep, we talk to Lady Caroline Percy, founder of the Historic Decoration Study Days @ Syon.
1) In many ways Syon is the spiritual home of Decorex the annual showcase of the best of interior design. Born into the Percy dynasty Syon was your childhood home and today you live in sight of your childhood home. Your career in interior design combines these ‘homes’, do you feel they influenced your decision to become an interior designer?
These elements did not directly influence my career choice, which came about more through an evolutionary process in that I used to work in the world of antiques sourcing furniture and works of art for interior designers and private clients. I was increasingly asked to advise what colours, fabrics and curtain designs etc. would be suitable for the period of the house for which I was buying the antique furniture, so interior design was a logical progression
Growing up in colourful historic interiors must enable one to subconsciously absorb a decorative language, which has been helpful in my career.
2) You specialize in creating homes from old and imposing houses. Have you found that your clients still prefer historic decoration or do you think today’s clients all prefer contemporary design?
My clients have enjoyed restoring their houses according to its historic period, but it is also essential to sympathetically incorporate modern technology to make a house as comfortable and convenient to run as possible. When working on listed historic buildings it is also necessary to design around the dictates of the planners, so there are certain limitations.
3) What has been the best interior design advice you have been given and if you passed on one thing what would it be?
I have never actually been given any advice! I have picked up useful tips by reading books on historic interiors and those written by other interior designers. I think the most important thing to pass on is to be aware of correct scale and proportion, when choosing furniture and curtain designs in relationship to the size of a room and its windows. Sofas and armchairs must be squashy and comfortable and colours should be what the client feels comfortable with rather than what is considered fashionable.
4) What would you like to be doing if you did not have your present job?
Anything in the world of the decorative arts.
5) Could you name two or more people (dead or alive) who have inspired you and who you would like to have lunch with?
Robert Adam, William Morris, John Fowler.
6) Where would you take them to lunch?
I would give a lunch in one of the Dining Rooms at Syon!
7) What are the colours from in our natural paint collection that you find most useful?
Your off-whites and pale neutrals that cover all the tones from warm to cool are my mainstay use. Brimstone and ochre are my favourite yellows and I use Buff for its neutral warmth and Turquoise which is an old favourite in period interiors.
8) Where do you go for inspiration and to further hone your eye – it might be a country, a gallery, a house, a building type, an trade fair!.......?
I try to visit historic houses in whichever country I happen to be for inspiration from the past. Trade fairs like Decorex are very useful for new ideas and the latest in home technology. I go to Italy whenever possible and have lived in southern Spain, so have been exposed to many Mediterranean influences.
9) Finally what would be your top 3 desert island tracks/pieces of music?
‘The House of the Rising Sun’ by the Animals. ‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay’ by Otis Redding. ‘Sea of Heatbreak’ by Don Gibson.
Posted: September 2017