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Nicky Haslam

Socialite, party organiser and decorator to the stars, Eton-educated Nicky Haslam was the perfect choice as designer to refurbish Le Preverger, the magnificent property in the hills above St Tropez bought by John Spence for the Karma Royal Group in late 2012.
Bardot, Picasso and Princess Diana have stayed here. Johnny Depp and Liam Neesom are neighbours. It was previously owned by legendary actress Jeanne Moreau, and doyenne of British country style Laura Ashley,
Nicky Haslam runs NH Design in London. When asked about famous clients he has said in the past: 'I really think giving lists of clients is very common. But at a pinch you could mention Ringo Starr, Oleg Deripaska, the Rodney Smiths in New Orleans, both the Saatchi brothers, a mansion in Ireland, a chalet in Klosters, a couple of villas on Cap Ferrat ...'
The Le Preverger estate includes a four-bedroom main villa, five-bedroom guest villa, four-bedroom coach house and two-bedroom pool house, as well as 150 acres of woods, olive groves and vineyards with sweeping views over the hills down to the French Riviera.
Interior Designers Nicky Haslam talks to The Luxury Travel Bible

Haslam's own homes include an apartment in London and a Jacobean hunting lodge in Hampshire previously owned by interior designer John Fowler, of Colefax & Fowler, where he has lived for 40 years.

You have described Le Preverger as 'a hidden haven of calme, luxe, et volupte'. How do you celebrate those in design?
They are everyone's dream in life. Volupte for me is wonderful dining - everyone sitting around for ages, eating glorious food with yet more delicious drinks.
Calme is not all that stripped-bare, pale white monochrome design. That sort of decor puts you on edge: you're terrified of just one biro mark.
The places that are much more relaxing are filled with beautiful things. The Spences, especially Nanette, love chintz. So we've found some especially beautiful and quite rare chintzes.
I don't think you make a room calm by making a big design statement that draws the eye. It's when there's no one thing that shouts at you: you take in the whole room in one great gasp of pleasure.
You talk about the importance of designing for how people live and entertain these days. How do you incorporate that into the interior design of what's essentially an historic farmhouse?
I've heard Le Preverger described as a chateau, a villa...
A chateau it isn't. It's essentially a mas: a traditional provencal farmhouse fortified by its surrounding lands.
In that part of the world people eat outside most of the summer, but John and Nanette wanted the house to be used all year round so it was a question of making it work indoors as well as out. We needed to create a space for... I don't want to say 'formal' dining because that's not it. A space for a kind of accepted but unexpected dining. It needed a proper kitchen. Not a family kitchen where everyone might have congregated in the Ashleys' day, but much more a professional cook's kitchen. Now guests will be congregating in the dining room and having people bring them wonderful food from the kitchen.
We created an enfilade of rooms on the ground floor by widening the doorways and taking out doors to create a view through the salon where guests will naturally congregate. The French windows from the salon out to the terrace were too low for the double-height room, so we made them appear taller inside by putting mirrored overdoors above them (which will reflect the light of candles at night) - without changing the exterior facade.
We're also lighting the gardens to make the most of them at night, so there is drama when you arrive.
How have you incorporated the legacy of past owners Laura Ashley and Jeanne Moreau?
We're not adhering to it slavishly. We have created a dedicated bar room, with photographs of Jeanne Moreau looking incredibly glamorous. But there are also photos of Jude Law and Richard E Grant who shot the Dom Hemingway film at Le Preverger recently.

What's your personal definition of luxury?
Luxury changes all the time. Enormous TVs get skinnier. What was luxurious five years ago suddenly looks old hat. So much of technology is a complete pain. Remote-control curtains? Well, I understand why some clients want them, but for me luxury is having a maid to open them for you in the morning.
Luxury is atmosphere. Something that strikes you the moment you walk in. Stars are luxury: it's jolly nice to see them, and they are very pretty.
I'll tell you what luxury is not, and it's those enormous twisted ghastly flowers in every room. Those places are designed by people who determinedly go against what's beautiful and natural.
It's not having every single coffee-table book on every table, but finding your favourite book. For me, a book by Sybille Bedford. There's an amazing library at Le Preverger.
Luxury is knowing that everything is right. Like grains of caviar altogether, the grains of a room come together. Luxury is decoration - it's not styling. Some people do like that window-dresser look, but it's not what I enjoy.
Of course, I'm the worst person to ask: I always move the furniture around wherever I stay.
What are your favourite hotels/resorts?
I don't stay much in hotels - I'm lucky enough to stay in friends' houses. I do love the Mayr and More clinic in Austria: it's just magic. I take a little house opposite, and you can swim in the beautiful warm lake and drink the water - I go every year. And I love Soniat House hotel in New Orleans
We know that you like to spend time at your hunting lodge in Hampshire - what other places soothe your soul?
I hate "relaxing' - it's common. I read. I go to a friend's place in Scotland, and a house near St Remy. And I relax by going to see the jobs that I'm working on. I'm terribly lucky: my work is hardly like a job, it's more part of having a wonderful life.

Le Preverger Luxury Private Villa

What is your favourite city to visit?
Rome. Or Istanbul - I stay with friends who have the most wonderful house there. I love everything about Istanbul: all the life on the Bosphorous.
You have to accept that cities will change, otherwise one would be in a rage all the time. What's depressing is when places become exactly the same, when you can buy the same things in Reykjavik as you can in New York. When everything is common there's no rarity.
What three things do you never travel without?
I try to remember the neck pillow I bought 35 years ago, and the couple of books I'm reading, and a woolly hat because the aeroplane's always so cold. But I always forget them. But I always take sleeping pills, earplugs, and an eye mask . No, not a special velvet one: it's very old - I think it's grey flannel. And I've got a satchel that goes everywhere.
Your best travel tip?
I always think "I'll write my next book on the flight to New Orleans", and I always fall fast asleep. The great secret is not to let yourself sleep before takeoff because it will wake you up again. Wait until they turn off the seatbelt sign.
Luxury Private Villa Le Preverger
Formative travel experiences?
I'll never forget the first time I saw Istanbul from the window of a plane.
Or the first time I went to New York as a child: we flew in a prop plane from Heathrow when it was just three Nissen huts in a field and you slept on the plane in bunks that folded down. I don't remember the food being served in hampers, but I do know that when Howard Hughes ran his airline Hughes Airwest the inflight meal was bread, cheese and apples served in a hamper. Wouldn't that be a luxury on a plane nowadays?
Actually, I rather love those hot bacon rolls you get on Ryanair.
What is the luxury experience you will never forget?
Private yachts and private planes, I'm afraid.
What is the most important travel luxury that money can't buy?
Weather. When you go skiing you don't want it to be pouring with rain. And when you're in the south of France you don't want it blowing a Mistral. Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could guarantee the weather?
But really, something that's really worth having you can't buy, I'm afraid.
Nicky Haslam was talking to Jennifer Stevenson 24/10/13
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