One of the wonderful things about technology is the way it brings like-minded people together from across the world. The English designer Nicolas Fairford is one of my favorite follows on Instagram, and I am delighted to welcome him today for a Style Profile Q&A! Nicolas has an exquisitely decorated home, and his passion for celebrating the beauty in every day life is contagious. He recently launched his own YouTube channel, which provides a lovely virtual escape while so many of us are still staying at home. Welcome, Nicolas!
Q: When did you know you wanted to become an interior designer?
A: Back in 2012 I moved to an apartment within a Grade I listed house in Staffordshire, England. With listed properties you are not allowed to just do anything you like with the interior, and in fact, almost everything has to be approved by Historic England.
I had always appreciated my surroundings and liked to have a nice home, but I had never really explored classic decor. It was really moving to this property that ignited my passion for classic interiors and architecture. I became absorbed in learning about the history of Interior Design and I ended up buying hundreds of books on the subject. I feel that this research really gave me a foundation of knowledge that has informed my taste and style. It is so important to understand why certain styles are timeless and how classical architecture influences our love of design today.
Completing my own project and the joy it gave really made me realise that if I could earn a living doing this, I’d never have to work a day in my life.
Q: How do you describe your style, and how has it evolved over the years?
A: I would describe my style as English Country House with a dash of prettiness. I absolutely love the ‘collected over time’ look of English interiors that have been passed through the generations and although I didn’t inherit my own furniture or home, I like to think that my rooms look like they have evolved over many years.
I am also deeply inspired by nature and the garden, and always try to centre my interiors around both. I really believe that nature is the greatest artist and a simple rose in a bud vase is the most exquisite ornament you can have in a room.
My style has evolved enormously over the years. When I first started decorating, my rooms were quite heavy and formal. When you read a lot of books about Georgian decoration this is what happens! I then began to understand that you have to take elements of the past and bring them into the present.
Now my style is a lot more relaxed and I decorate for maximum comfort. Instagram is a wonderful place for research and to develop your taste. I love the freshness of American design and how comfort is of huge importance. Nancy Lancaster really brought that American luxury to England and expertly mixed it with English elegance.
Q: Please tell me about the new YouTube channel you recently launched! How did it come about?
A: The extrovert in me really enjoys performing, and during lockdown I thought it would be a good time to share more of my life and perhaps provide some entertainment.
I’m not a huge fan of TV and I feel there is a real lack of content about the kind of subjects that our Instagram community are really passionate about. I love watching some of my favourite people on social media and having a little snoop into their lives, so I thought it might be fun to share some of my own life on film! I really believe that seeing people on video provides a connection that just isn’t possible through a photograph.
Q: I was shocked to learn in one of your recent videos that you decorated your home on a small budget. Can you share some of your secrets?
A: Being a relatively young person who isn’t married to an heir to a Dukedom means that sadly, I have to budget my life! I do enjoy a certain way of living – I like to travel, I enjoy eating out at restaurants, and I love to shop. Although having a beautiful home is very important to me, I also want to enjoy life.
You can decorate on a very small budget and still make it look elegant. I think my number one tip is to buy inexpensive furniture and spend more on fabrics and small details. I love French furniture and you can pick up some insane bargains online. Most of my furniture has been purchased through online auctions or selling websites and I simply re-paint them. The only furniture I would invest more in is sofas and armchairs as cheaper ones are very obvious and sitting on lumpy seating will make life miserable!
One of the most expensive elements of decorating is artwork to fill walls. One of my top tricks is to take pictures from books and have them framed. Buying sets of prints online can be very expensive and it is much more cost effective to buy a book and use a framer to finish them off.
Q: How did you compose your fabulous wall of botanical prints? It always takes my breath away!
A: Two years ago I visited the Palace of Versailles and in the gift shop there was the most beautiful book about the flowers in Marie Antoinette’s garden. It had fifty full-sized watercolours of flowers that were just exquisite. I remember being at home one day and I was flicking through the book admiring the pictures and I thought it was such a shame that they were shut away in a book. So I cut them from the book and had them framed. They have filled an entire wall and look so marvellous all together – it’s so nice to enjoy them every day rather than having them languishing in the book.
Q: Where do you find inspiration?
A: I find inspiration literally everywhere. I think once you open your eyes to beauty, you will find it in everything and it makes life so joyful.
I’m obsessed with shelter magazines and I find a lot of inspiration in those. Also I collect old auction catalogs and they are a wonderful source of inspiration as they often show homes that evolved over time and were lived in for many years. These images aren’t staged so you can really learn a lot about what makes an interior interesting and beautiful.
Instagram is a huge source of inspiration for me. There are so many talented people who are not professional designers but have the most exquisite taste and personal style. It’s these people who actually provide the most inspiration for me, because again, these are real homes that are lived in.
Q: Who are your favorite designers, past and present?
A: My all time favourite designer is Colefax and Fowler and they really are part of the past and the present. John Fowler and Nancy Lancaster were the most incredible duo who provided the benchmark for the English style that we all know and love today. John’s English elegance and Nancy’s American freshness with a focus on comfort is such an enduring combination that has stood the test of time.
My favourite designer of our time is probably Veere Grenney. There isn’t a room of his that I don’t love and he is truly the master of English elegance with a contemporary relevance that also manages to be timeless.
My biggest style hero was not a professional decorator but had the most heavenly personal style and I find myself always referring to her work. Bunny Mellon was a billionaire but infused her home with laid back elegance that just resonates with me. She knew that people visiting her home might feel intimidated and so made a conscious effort to make her home feel comfortable and peaceful. Fabrics on upholstery were left to become worn – rips and tears were not mended. Priceless paintings were hung above working fireplaces to be looked and enjoyed. I really admire this easy elegance.
Q: What are your favorite things to do in your spare time?
A: Although I don’t yet have one of my own, I’m a huge fan of gardens. In the Spring and Summer months I love nothing more than going out for the whole day and visiting a heavenly garden. In the U.K we have something called the National Gardens Scheme where people open their gardens for a day or two to the public and all the money raised goes to charity. It is often these ‘amateur’ gardeners who have the most incredible spaces which are just so inspiring.
I love to travel. We are so lucky to live in such a fascinating and beautiful world and I love being around different cultures and learning about their way of life.
I enjoy cooking and find it really relaxing. I’ll often have a gin & tonic and start preparing dinner – it’s such a wonderful way to wind down and I find it so rewarding transforming a basketful of vegetables and ingredients into something delicious.
Q: In the fast-paced technology-driven world we live in today, how do you find time to appreciate life’s beauty and simple pleasures on a daily basis?
A: I love nothing more than being out in nature and I find walking outside to be the perfect tonic to our fast-paced world. The evolving seasons are so fascinating and there is always something to see that makes you realise the power and beauty of our natural world. In springtime when I walk my dog, Sophie, in our local gardens, it is so unbelievable to witness the changes that occur literally overnight. The trees sprouting new buds, daffodils emerging from the soil, the sound of birdsong as they return after a Summer spent in another continent – for me, there is nothing nicer.
Q: What are you most looking forward to doing once COVID-19 has subsided?
A: Apart from getting my hair done, I am so excited to be able to see my friends and family. I haven’t seen my parents since January and I’m really missing them so to be able to give them a hug will be wonderful.
I’m also looking forward to doing the simple things that I took for granted like just being able to pop to a café with a friend for a pot of tea and a slice of cake.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: I think it is so wonderful how through social media and the internet we have been able to form communities of people who share the same passions. I have connected with people from all over the world who I would never have met otherwise.
I just want to say thank you to everyone who has been so kind to me as I’ve shared my life on Instagram and other platforms. It’s such a pleasure to bring joy and be able inspire others, in my own small way. I’ve also learned so much from others who live incredible lives and have incredible taste. So thank you!
Thank you so much Nicolas for joining us today! So inspirational, and a wonderful example of Grandmillennial Style across the pond. For ongoing inspiration, please follow @nicolasfairford on Instagram and Nicolas Fairford’s new YouTube channel.