Veere Grenney could well be called one of the leading “decorators”. His work is revered by many interior designers as well as by his discerning clientele.
His name has featured on lists of outstanding designers in influential publications for more than a decade; The interiors of his country home, The Temple, were rightly featured in the book Interiors: The greatest rooms of the century (Phaidon), and India Hicks isn’t the only aesthete to pay homage to his eye, admitting in one of her books to having ‘copied’ a bedroom scheme in her own Oxfordshire home.
Thirty years into his career, the New Zealand-born, London-based designer shows no signs of slowing down. He and his team of eight are currently working on interior design projects in London, the Midwest and the Hamptons, including a major new build.
The Veere Grenney (opens in new tab) “Pavilion” designs of handcrafted lacquer tables and trays in collaboration with The Lacquer Company (opens in new tab) End of 2021 and a second fabric and wallpaper collection realized with Schumacher (opens in new tab) should go into production within the next 18 months. His range of prints and furniture of the same name, launched in 2005, continues to enchant.
Balance, proportion, harmony and elegance combined with a deep respect for architecture and geometry are the qualities that underscore Veere Grenney’s work. One could say that his interiors are the epitome of contemporary classicism, although his studio can and does deliver almost any style.
He has worked on a wide range of properties: from contemporary New York apartments to Arts & Crafts houses to 18th-century English country houses and airy villas in Mustique. His most prestigious or well-known works include two penthouses at Claridge’s in London, Ferne Park in Wiltshire and of course the now iconic interiors of one of his own homes, The Temple; a Palladian idyll in Suffolk which, fittingly, also once belonged to the late great David Hicks.
An omnipresent passion
Veere sees working in interior design more as a calling and a profession than a career (more on career paths later), not only because he is passionate about the smallest of details, but because design permeates his subconscious at all levels of life.
“If you work in interior design because you love the process of creating beauty and harmony, it is very privileged and usually not something you leave behind at 5am when you leave the office. Her focus on aesthetics is in the manifestation of so many things: it’s your whole life, it’s on every level, whatever you do, from laying a knife and fork on a table to (assembling) a bowl of flowers. It’s not just about putting a room together.”
way to design
His path to design – and to England – was a somewhat unconventional journey. During his youth in the 1960s, interior decorating was not widely recognized as a profession and the figures who influenced him from afar were the rare names of ‘celebrities’ such as David Hicks, Max Clendinning and Billy Baldwin, whose work pervaded the glossy pages was enjoyed by printed magazines.
“When you talk about an interior design career path, you have to remember that up until 30 years ago, there was no such thing and nobody really knew what the profession was. I think you always have this Nirvana idea in mind that you’re born and there’s kind of a big revelation of what you’re going to do.
“Today you can have a career path that’s better mapped out, but there wasn’t anything like it back then,” says Veere, adding, “I’ve always adored houses, always loved interiors and I couldn’t get enough of it, or a lot , very early ages read about them. The desire was there, but not necessarily the understanding of how to manifest it.’
A cultural journey
In his fascinating and heartily written book Veere Grenney on Decorating: A Viewpoint (Rizzoli International (opens in new tab)) he talks about dropping out of history studies at the age of 21 to travel to Australia and Singapore and then travel the “hippie trail” to Nepal, India, Afghanistan, Turkey, Burma and Goa, but always with London as his ” ultimate goal”. Here he set up his own booth in Portobello, dealing in antiques and working in restaurants, “just trying to make a living and trying to manifest what I wanted to do”.
Opening a shop in Westbourne Grove gave him higher recognition among other creatives working in what he calls the “beauty shop”. “Back in the 1970s, if you wanted to express yourself artistically, you had an antique shop and you made it look like a room decor. That was your flagship; It was the message you made to the world about who you were.
“It was a tiny world, so it really wasn’t difficult to suddenly know people in the industry, like Christopher Gibbs or George Sherlock, who were the antique dealers and fashion dealers of the time. Then there were people like Ruth Sheradski who ran a shop called Loot, Ross Hamilton who had a great shop on Pimlico Road, Geoffrey Bennison and so on. All these people made up this milieu.”
When asked about key moments in his work, Veere says: “Key moments in career are really the perfect steps in life. My first defining moment came when I was 31 and got my first real ‘adult’ job at Mary Fox Linton, running her shop and then working in interior design. After that, my next moment has to go to Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler (opens in new tab) 10 years later in a management position and then five years later independently.’
He later adds: “Developments into a range of fabrics, furniture collaborations and so on came naturally. It was never part of a strategy.” He adds, “The stories of my generation are quite unique, although of course you didn’t see that back then!”
do the work
The importance of education is something Veere is wholeheartedly committed to, both in word and deed. In fact, he founded his eponymous company at the age of 45. “To be good in our business – I’m not saying taste, I just mean good or competent – you need at least 10 to 15 years of experience. I don’t care what anyone says – you just do it – and I gossip about it all the time.
“In my opinion, having the seriousness or the professionalism to embrace beauty, furniture, fabrics, architecture, style, the listing of buildings, the historical decoration of buildings, knowing what is and is not a ‘sacred cow’, To understand all the things that affect our business – plus how to live, plus gardens – takes many years of work.” He also says: “But it’s great that interior design is this huge business now and that there are great opportunities are.”
Veere Grenney’s appetite for design remains contagious. “What’s really exciting is that there are always more things to learn. I could still spend every day of my life looking at beautiful homes around the world, seeing homes I’ve never seen before and the aesthetic that comes with them.”
He continues: ‘Think of the wealth of England and the beauty of the houses in it from town to country and everything in between. And then I also love America so much for our work because they are building such beautiful houses today. If you look at great American architects – like Adler – well, they were geniuses.
‘And then look at Peter Pennoyer (opens in new tab) today or Gil Schafer (opens in new tab) or James Carter (opens in new tab) , they build beautiful houses…. I mean gorgeous! And when their customers are even more conscious, they have a wonderful garden to match the house.’
He reveals: “I’m building a house for some clients in America right now – it’s about 8000 square feet and I just love the process, whereas in England it’s so difficult to build a new house.”
He continues: “But in England we do something different, which is the restoration of wonderful large country houses as well as smaller cottages. We (in England) manifest what we can within the means of our income.’
Reflecting on his “superpower,” he says, “I can’t draw, I can’t use a computer, but I’m good at being a conductor. A very good interior designer is like an editor; They have the ability to visualize the whole, to see the potential in the ingredients, to recognize the quality of a producer and to bring them together.’
When asked where one should never compromise, he says: “It’s very difficult to say because the beauty of it is that every single rule has to be broken. But the word integrity is one of the most important words in the world. Everything you do should be done with integrity.’
He believes that good design is ultimately about bringing beauty to every element of life. “Ever since I was a kid I had this unconscious desire to know how people live, because you usually equate beautiful houses with the way people live. That’s why the subject of interior design is so big, because it’s not just about how a space looks. If you’re good at your job, it’s about considering all the layers of an interior, often undefinable to the untrained eye, but vastly enhancing and enhancing the way of life.’