Obituary: Oliver Ford

Oliver Frederick Ford, decorator, born Bournemouth Dorset 19 June 1925, died Lacock Wiltshire 17 October 1992.

OLIVER FORD was for many years the doyen of the traditional decorators. He was recognised nationally and internationally for his impeccable taste in the 18th century.

His philosophy in decorating was to enhance the personality of the owner rather than himself and his rooms were noted for being elegant but understated, very much in 18th-century country-house taste, with an accent on simplicity. It was his aim to make a home to be lived in rather than to create a showroom.

Ford was born in 1925. Having served in the Second World War in the RAF as a volunteer reserve he studied decoration and decorative arts at the Southern College of Art, Bournemouth. As a member of a repertory company he was fascinated by stage decor, but his career in the field of interior design started at the London department store Waring and Gillow, as an assistant in the interior decorating department. When he realised he was making little progress, he approached Stefan Boudin of Jensen, the leading decorators in Paris, under whom he studied before he was eventually put in charge of their London office in George Street.

After a brief period in Nassau, he became a partner to Oswin Bateman Brown in the firm of Lenygon and Morant in London, first in Burlington Gardens, then in Grosvenor Square. The Queen Mother appointed him her Decorator in 1974, giving him a Royal Warrant. Amongst his other clients were the Duke of Marlborough at Blenheim, Mrs Harry Oppenheimer, Lord McAlpine of West Green (for whom he worked in Australia) and the Dorchester Hotel in London before its most recent refurbishment.

The firm now survives under the name of Oliver Ford, with its subsidiary Howard Chairs. The van bearing Oliver Ford's name can frequently be seen making deliveries throughout London and could sometimes be spotted at Paddington railway station collecting him on his arrival from Chippenham, near where he lived at Bewley Court, adjacent to Lacock village. His home, which has stood for nearly 600 years, was renovated and loved by him and included its own chapel together with more than 12 individual gardens which he created in his grounds. Ford has no heirs and has left Bewley Court, its contents and gardens, to 'The Oliver Ford Charitable Trust' to be opened to the public for their enjoyment in perpetuity, with all proceeds going to the mentally handicapped.

Noted for his modesty, his charm and keen humour, Ford recently said in a House & Garden interview: 'I have done nothing to the house at all, it was always beautiful and, quite honestly, if you were to take out all my tat, it would be even more beautiful.'

One of his well-known dislikes was decorating a room where there was a grand piano. He said he hoped one day to see such apartments in Grosvenor Square with the backs of their grand pianos stuck out through the walls - like air conditioning units in New York. More seriously he said, 'The most important thing is to work well with a client. I have never worked for anyone who has asked me to decorate for them rather than with them.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources Officer

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen at th...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - London - £40,000 + Bonus

£36000 - £40000 per annum + Bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own