Fritz von der Schulenburg

What You Should Have, and What You Don't: Isabella Blow, Eaton Square

Wallis Simpson’s clothes were amazing, she was my heroine; but not her house, it was too busy for the clothes.
— Isabella Blow, Home: What our Homes Really Mean to Us

"My earliest memory is of masses of honeysuckle on the walls of our house. We lived in something called The Gardens; my grandfather had this beautiful house and we lived in the park. I used to wake up every morning and know that we were never going to be there, so I was brought up with this incredible beauty that you knew you couldn't get your hands on. I've always wanted it; I still want it. I think that beauty is very sexy. It wasn't the size, it was the elegance. Once a year, as a child, we used to look out over these incredible gardens and look at the world we'd lost, and it was a red carpet with people going up all dressed for the hunt ball, and the house would be spotlit. It was the only house in England to have plates on it—to have Wedgewood zodiac signs. It made me, I suppose obsessed with tarot cards and the zodiac, and with very strict beauty, which I still like in fashion. People think I like really funky stuff. I like classic with a twist. I like things that are cut beautifully and I think it comes from that house; it was really severe. It was called Doddington Park and it was designed by Samuel Wyatt who was the younger brother of James Wyatt, who did a lot of houses. Plum Sykes recently got married in a Samuel Wyatt house, which was her cousin's, Sir Tatton Sykes. She was wearing a giant emerald bracelet that was perfect with the house and it looked great. You see, I think people have to plan their house so they look good in it. Wallis Simpson's clothes were amazing, she was my heroine; but not her house, it was too busy for the clothes."

"I had two sisters. My brother died—he drowned in the swimming pool of that house, in the garden. Our house was so ugly: it was a pink house with horrible pink grout. My room was blue, and I've always had blue wherever I go. My apartment in New York was light blue. Neither of my parents had any interest in furnishings; they were socialites. They poured crème de menthe over each other every night. Then my grandfather had this murder trial—White Mischief thing—and everything was sold from the big house. My father didn't want any reminders of those things. But I have inherited two pieces that are going into my new place. One is a pope's table that my grandfather got on the Grand Tour, and it's got snakes and peonies, which are my favorite flowers, and the snake is winding its way around the flowers, which I love. Hard and soft. I like very severe beautiful tables with very soft cushions. That's what makes something very erotic, like a penis going into a vagina—same thing. I was brought up in a house in Cadogan Square in London. That was amazing. It had these beasts on the floor—black beasts with hair flying and funny noses –and amazing doors. I'm obsessed by doors. (The Hermitage; for me it's the most beautiful building in the world because of the doors. The tsar had every single door made differently, and it gives it such an individual feel. Making an entrance. I never thought about that before.) We had these malachite tables that remind me of Russia, and this great round table in the drawing room, with a vase of flowers in the middle—that must have come from Doddington. My parents entertained a lot. You could extend the dining-room table by adding extra leaves, from four people to six to sixteen. My mother got a friend, Andrew Rolla, to do the interior. Do you remember when trompe l'oeil was very popular? We had this absolutely hideous fake trompe l'oeil hall that was orange and cream. I knew it was wrong because I'd seen my grandfather's house. I knew what you should have and what we didn't have, and maybe that's been my problem all my life."

"When I was 16 I was chucked out. My father had met this woman and my parents got divorced. My mother moved from Cadogan Square to Lennox Gardens, where she had a gray suede hall, ugh! My mother went very suede. She had suede sofas. I hate that. After that, I literally lived like a vagabond. I just loved living in other people's houses. That's my thing. You can't afford what they've got, so why not enjoy it while it's going? As a fantasy. I was very influenced by someone I stayed with called Maria St. Just, who was the muse of Tennesee Williams and she played Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. She got a group of Russians in to paint her house and they make little pelmets, like a theater set. It had pistachio green, like the inside of the nut, on the walls and the sofas were... I don't remember, but she had one little sofa opposite another little sofa. I love it when you can talk to people opposite. When you just have one lame duck it's hopeless."

"I went to New York and bought a fantastic apartment. It was a classic—the second floor of a brownstone. It had a beautiful square drawing room, lovely light. I knocked through the two bedrooms and had a huge four-poster bed and big cupboards for my clothes. That was the first time I really had somewhere. I was 24 and my grandmother had died and she'd left me some money, so I spent it on that. I worked for Anna Wintour at American Vogue, so I wanted it to look good; I wanted some self-respect. I used to go out with Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. We used to really live it up. It was slightly "rock 'n' roll," the whole thing. The apartment was on the wild side, but very classic. I had a Mary Fox Linton black-and-white sofa. I cooked—I love cooking—and I had a very modern galley kitchen with a black rubber floor. Then I got married to somebody and then divorced two years later. I finished my job with Vogue and left New York."

"For the past eight years I've been living in this little two-up two-down hatbox in Lambeth, London, but it's a horrible area; I can no longer live in terror. I can't walk under the bridge at night for fear of being murdered. Location is the most important thing. I've now decided to buy this flat in Eaton Square—classic, first floor, very good proportions. I was only looking for three weeks. I'm very impetuous. It's a bed-sitter basically, but I won't make it a bed-sitter because of proportions and scale. I'm not really a good home person; my husband is the same. I'm not very cozy by nature because I've never had a real home. I've lived in 29 houses. I've got a friend called Camilla Guinness who's going to do it up, otherwise it just won't get done. I just don't want to have fights with Detmar—my husband—over sofas and chairs. She can arbitrate. I think when your husband has a strong point of view, you have to show him photographs and drawings so he feels in control. We're going to do a portfolio, so I can say, do you like this sofa, this chair? Do you like the chandelier hanging here? What he wants is organization. He doesn't want chaos. I've got a great chandelier that came from my father's house; it's been in storage for nearly three years. It's absolutely huge—really beautiful; Waterford 1760. People don't hang them properly—much too high. A chandelier is meant to act as a light on top of the food or something. It has to be down, so the eye goes, wow! It's something people have got to learn. I hate shopping. I like buying art. I love auctions. The nerve-racking bit of it. You see it, you fall in love with it and you feel like you're buying it for the correct price. I like to support artists; it's good for them and it's fun for me. You must support the culture you live in. Stability is very important. I've been so ill from not knowing where I belong. Since I was 15, I've never put my key in the door and thought I was at home, never. My mother never gave me a key. Having got Eaton Square I'm not going anywhere else."