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.'