As much as photographer Cecil Beaton always seemed to be at the very center of the Paris and New York fashion scene in the Thirties, Forties and Fifties, his beloved homes were his greatest escapes. At English country retreats Ashcombe House (now owned by Guy Richie) and Reddish House and a handful of hotel suites in London and New York, Beaton carved out delightfully over-the-top residences where the bon vivants and beautiful young things of the day swilled champagne, put on plays and sat for Beaton’s portraits. In the new book Cecil Beaton at Home: An Interior Life, Andrew Ginger takes a look inside the artist’s homes throughout his life, finding that he had just as much flair for decor and entertaining as he did for photography, costume design and illustration. In Ashcombe, Beaton created a circus-themed master bedroom with painted strongmen, lady on a pony, Harlequin and Pierrot on the walls and a pièce de résistance of a bed — a four-poster with brass carousel bedposts and a headboard featuring Neptune on a half-shell. At weekend parties, guests were encouraged to bring costumes, whether Robin Hood or Little Bo Peep or queens, current or past, and in the coolest spin on a guest book we’ve ever come across, Beaton requested first-time guests to outline their hand prints (bracelets, cuffs and rings, included) along the walls or ceiling when they visited the downstairs powder room.
Read more features from our Entertaining Issues, past and present.