Plutocrat's perfect pad: pots of gold and nothing of value

The doors of the late Georgian oligarch's house are prised open by Peter York
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Badri Patarkatsishvili's house is what you'd expect for someone who had so much to spend but so much on the go – cash-rich, time-poor as they say. It looks as if he saw a brochure called "Prestigious (a key word) ambassadorial (the other giveaway word) large houses in the Home Counties", picked one in five minutes but told everyone concerned to double-check its security.

The Home Counties are chock-full of houses like this, though perhaps a little smaller. It's a bit like a 1990s Tesco, and a lot like Sunninghill Park, the house Prince Andrew recently sold for £15m (everyone called it Southyork). It looks newish at first but its neo-Victorian 1980s/1990s kind of modernity with a lot of applied gingerbread to liven up the rather basic doors and fenestration of the main block. So there seem to be a lot of conservatory and pavilion and verandahish structures, all places originally conceived for Victorian and Edwardian leisure-class pottering. And what's the betting he'd hardly used them, if we're to believe that he'd spent every last minute fomenting unrest in his native Georgia.

There's a tower, a familiar feature of big Victorian villas with a slightly Romantic streak, which makes me suspect that underneath all the stuck-on-looking extensions and elaborate landscaping that may be exactly what it is – a largish but undistinguished Victorian villa done over in the 1980s or 1990s by someone who'd made a fortune in construction materials.

What will the inside be like? I think I know because I've spent a lot of time poring over archive shots of this sort of place, owned by this sort of person, formulating a set of golden rules for the decoration of dictators' homes. And Mr P, as it turns out, knew a lot about dictators.

Rule No 1 is Big It Up. All the rooms have to be seriously, uncomfortably, over-scaled. And I'd expect there to be an awful lot of gold around the place. Dictators love it and Russian plutocrats always seem to follow the rule. There should, for instance, be gold taps from that place in South Audley Street. And lots of Edgware Road repro French furniture slathered with shining ormolu. Plus massive mirrors in gilt frames.

I expect they'll have Made It Marble wherever they can too. Certainly the bathrooms and steam rooms and wet rooms will be floored and walled in vigorously figured shiny marble (old money prefers its marble distressed, matted-down and cracked up).

You wonder about the art: was there any? Proper collecting takes time and a bit of bourgeois leisure. Like everyone else, plutocrats of this kind favour pictures of themselves, but rendered in a heroic mock 17th century kind of way, as warriors, poets or saviours of their nations. The other thing they like is the kind of art turned out for their 19th century counterparts – Art Pompier – big shiny oils, with debased neoclassical scenes. Unlike grim Old Masters, these pictures really look the business.

Peter York's 'Dictators' Homes' is published by Atlantic Books, £9.99

Comments