LONDON - Since starting his own firm in 1990, Chester Jones has established himself as one of the United Kingdom’s most talented interior designers. His distinctive use of art and sympathetic treatment of a building’s history betray his training as an architect and former managing director of Colefax and Fowler design firm. A new book, The Interiors of Chester Jones (Merrell, £40/$65), reveals his guiding principle of creating nuanced interiors that are both comfortable and highly personal. His philosophy is that the home should be a place of refuge in which we feel completely at ease, and contents play a major part. For it is our cherished objects, whether old or new, that stimulate our intellect and emotions and say so much about who we really are.
A DINING ROOM DESIGNED BY CHESTER JONES.
How does your knowledge of art and architecture influence your interior designs?
Almost totally – modern and 18th- and 19th-century architecture in particular. After attending art school, I studied architecture and worked in the profession for a few years. As a result, I treat most buildings with a great deal of interest and respect. Art, sculpture and artefacts make an interior. For me, inspiration often comes from other cultures. Patterns of rural life and their craft tradition are influential. Japan, China and Scandinavia are of particular interest to me, and those cultures often embrace varying areas of the arts and crafts – architecture, textiles, carpets and pottery, for instance. However, my principal interest has been mid-20th-century abstract and ethnographic art, the latter mostly African and Oceanic. There is a well-recognised bond between 20th-century aesthetics and the tribal influence.
DINING ROOMS CAN ALWAYS BE ENRICHED BY BOOKS AND ART. THE CHESTER JONES-DESIGNED SIDEBOARD DISPLAYS A SONGE KIFWEBE MASK AND A HENRY MOORE BRONZE. A LARGE AUERBACH OIL (ACQUIRED AT SOTHEBY’S) PRESIDES OVER THEM.
How do you make art and design work together?
Art is more important. Art is a language that conveys emotion. Design is the stage. This is not to say interiors cannot be beautiful; they can. Nevertheless, they are settings and without people, ideas, art and hospitality they have much less to offer. This is the secret of the best rooms and it is the most creative aspect of interior design today. The great classical interiors achieved their power through harmony. In this age of eclectic ideas and rapidly evolving dogmas, it is better to create a home that relies on a thoroughly personal dialogue between works.
How do you approach working with an existing collection?
First, one has to understand the client’s approach to their collection. It may be that they collect specific artists, or within a “school” or movement, which can then be expanded by linking material or sources of inspiration. This deepens the understanding of the aesthetic basis of a collection. Collections should be viewed as living things. If they remain static within a home they can become too familiar. Collecting is a creative act in its own right and you can breathe new life into a collection by moving it around, editing it and adding to it.
DESIGNER CHESTER JONES.
How should art be displayed in a collector’s home?
I can only give one piece of advice, and that is to show your latest acquisition modestly. In fact, all art should be presented informally, as it makes for a more relaxed atmosphere. A home should be welcoming first and foremost. Let your prized possessions be presented quietly.
Do you have advice to offer for a first-time collector?
A first-time collector needs to seek out as much information as possible – museums, sale catalogues, exhibitions and, most vitally, books. Build your collection slowly and carefully. Get rid of early mistakes as soon as possible; everybody makes them. Find one or two things you like, live with them, explore where their ideas originated from and expand the collection from there. Most important, buy out of interest, not