OBITUARY: John Beswick

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The Independent Online
John Beswick's work as an interior designer summed up a mood of opulence and sybaritism in the living styles of the late Eighties and Nineties found only amongst the international rich. His commissions - often in conjunction with decorators such as Colefax and Fowler - were largely for residential conversions in Belgravia and were known less for a wish to impose an image on his clients, than for his desire to realise their design fantasies by supplying immaculately detailed work, executed to an exceptionally high level.

Beswick was the fourth generation of a family of architects based in Swindon. His father specialised in ecclesiastical architecture and as a child John was frequently taken to visit English churches and country houses at the weekends. After Commonweal Grammar School he was accepted at the Architectural Association where he gained his diploma in 1976 and where his contemporaries included Zaha Hadeed, Nigel Coates and Peter Wilson.

Under the pioneering "unit system" initiated by Alvin Boyarsky, in which tutors marketed themselves to students, Beswick signed himself to Bob Evans's unit, which specialised in the relation of man to his living space. Ironically, given Beswick's later work, one of his first projects debated the need for women's refuges. Inspired by this he campaigned successfully to have a creche installed at the Architectural Association for the then growing number of parent-students and, indeed, tutors.

After graduating from the AA, Beswick worked with Smallwood Architects, where he was assigned to jobs involving listed buildings. His specialism was fruitfully identified by his next employer, David Hicks, for whom he acted as architectural consultant on a brand new Palladian-style villa, the Vila Verde, in the Algarve. After four years with Hicks, he joined John Stefanidis's interior design company. While there he worked on a redesign of Lord and Lady Glenconner's London house in Victorian style and on the refurbishment of parts of the Bank of England whose architect, Sir John Soane, was one of Beswick's heroes.

In 1987 Beswick set up his own company, John Beswick and Associates, and came into his own. His social skills, tact and diplomacy were an undoubted part of his success and site meetings with interior decorators, antique furniture and Persian rug dealers, wallpaper manufacturers, sound engineers, security system and experts often came to resemble cocktail parties. He had particularly good relations with the Grosvenor Estate, steering a series of highly individual commissions through the restrictions protecting listed buildings. In the last five years he received as many commissions for projects in Eaton Square, three of them to budgets in excess of pounds 1.5m.

His international clientele left him largely unscathed by the recession. One of his recent commissions involved a complete redesign of a flat in Eaton Square for Wafic Said, which only six months previously he had finished for Elliot Bernard, the American businessman. For Bernard he had knocked two adjacent flats into one, thus creating the biggest flat in London, spanning four houses. But, for the client, nothing was too much trouble. He dealt skilfully with a series of demanding, sometimes difficult, and often whimsical clients - providing them with such features as a pop-up television rising from a cabinet graced with silver-framed photographs at the bottom of the bed; or bedside keypads to draw the curtains and pre-set bath temperatures.

Beswick has been diagnosed as having Aids in 1989, but lived a full life in good health until only weeks before his death. Even then he carried on working, on occasions commuting from office to hospital.

Robert Tewdwr Moss

John Edward Eastcott Beswick, interior designer: born Swindon 26 April 1951; died London 1 August 1995.

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