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A Great Room That’s Not Alienatingly Grand

Decorator Todd Romano finds inspiration in the comfortable and livable opulence of the drawing room in design icon David Hicks’ Britwell country house

TEXAS-BORN AND Manhattan-based interior designer Todd Alexander Romano, may be best-known for his signature lacquered walls, but the sophisticated polish he brings to interiors belies his loquacious and cozy Southern charm. No matter if there’s a Giacometti against the wall or a mantle full of rare Japanese pottery, Mr. Romano’s projects never fail to include warm lighting, sink-into-it upholstery and a well-placed cocktail table. “I don’t care how beautiful a room is,” he said. “If it doesn’t function, it is a failure.”

Little wonder, then, that for inspiration, he turns to David Hicks, the designer who, in the 1960s and ’70s, was most responsible for reimagining fussy, traditional English style as something colorful, trendy and eminently livable. Mr. Hicks dispensed with unapproachable stateliness in favor of a more inviting furniture; he despised chintz, opting instead for simpler geometric patterns. He is also credited with coining the now-ubiquitous term “tablescape”: Given a spare surface, he created dense vignettes that redefined the art of the display, often grouping sentimental trinkets with expensive objets d’art that were unified by a single color scheme.

His talent for marrying the highly decorative with the subdued and modern found its apotheosis in Britwell, the 18th-century Oxfordshire country house that Mr. Hicks purchased in 1960. His design for its drawing room, in particular, illustrates how to make a grand space feel accessible. An ornate 1760s chimney-piece with intricate moldings is offset by a nubby oatmeal fabric on the walls, while a tonal, sculptured carpet that sensually mixes high and low pile invites the idea of walking about the space in bare feet. “[It] just epitomizes everything I love in a really beautifully designed room,” Mr. Romano said.


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