House & Garden | Diary of a Somebody

Francis Sultana

The London designer is carried along by a whirlwind of events

Francis Sultana

October 13 2011
Francis Sultana

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

It is 6am and I have woken up 15 minutes behind schedule. I know too well that this week is going to leave me exhausted! I catch up with some emails and get myself to the gym – but I must say by the end of it I am just about energised and definitely ready to take on the opening of Frieze today.

First I make my way to Belgravia as the big day for Madam R has dawned and tonight she is hosting the Outset Frieze Art Fair Fund reception to benefit the collection. We meet in the hall, which is full of hangers, florists, cleaners and more, but she is calm and excited and more concerned about getting to the Frieze fair early – that’s what I call professional!

I meet my team back in the office where all is good. My clients are all too preoccupied with the untold number of art-related events going on in London, so there is a quietness in the office that the team are relishing. I head off to Frieze and at 11.30 the place is already so busy with collectors and advisors that it is almost impossible to look at things – I am constantly bumping into people I know. I decide to be methodical and go aisle by aisle.

I see one of my favourite gallerists, Eva Presenhuber, whose stand looks fantastic and immediately I fall for a group of small birds cast in bronze by the artist Ugo Rondinone. At Sprueth Magers I am ushered into the little private room (some of the galleries have them) where they show me a small oil of an interior painted by Karen Kilimnik. Andrew, the gallery director, knows I am extremely partial to works showing interiors and it is such a delight to see; I am sad to leave it as I continue.

There is so much here to grab the attention; next I spot a wall-mounted mask by Thomas Houseago at the Hauser & Wirth gallery that is simply stunning. I run into my dear friend Melanie Clore (co-chairman of Sotheby’s) and we exchange our thoughts on the works we both like while also agreeing that it is all so visually stimulating, one needs to find the proper time to revisit it without the distraction of so many hellos! I am sure I have missed out on seeing many works that will inspire me.

I quickly head back to Belgravia to check on the organisation for tonight as there are barely two hours left, but it is all coming together beautifully. It is the first party to be hosted in the house and promises to be magnificent – Madam R and I chat briefly just before her hairdresser arrives, but her beaming smile confirms that she is happy.

After making a quick change into yet another navy suit and white shirt, I arrive back at the house and within minutes it is filling up, with 200 guests present at one point. Candida Gertler, co-founder of Outset, is wearing a stunning outfit and gives a lovely speech to welcome everyone. I am very touched when she thanks me before introducing Madam R and Nick Serota, director of the Tate. Madam R is truly a vision of perfection this evening – I adore how these ladies take such precision in every part of their lives – she says some beautiful words and I suddenly feel very proud that the house has come alive and is being so much admired. I put so much of my heart and creativity into each project I take on, each time striving to achieve a real reflection of the client whose home it is, and tonight is an example of true recognition that anyone creative strives for. I thoroughly enjoy the rest of the reception and am congratulated by many guests for my efforts, so with a very agreeable sense of professional satisfaction I depart for a dinner hosted by Christophe Navarre, Patrick Perrin and Stéphane Custot at Annabel’s.

I am fortunate to be sitting close to my friends Mr & Mrs B, for whom I am decorating a beautiful house in the South of France, and everybody is having a great time, which I put down to the meticulous planning of my friend in Paris, Victoria Fernandez, who has been behind the scenes – she has “the know-how”, as she puts it. Dear Patrick makes his speeches and again I am thanked together with Yana Peel for our support of Pavilion of Art and Design this year and because we have initiated a substantial donation to the Outset Design Fund by Moët Hennessy which will enable new acquisitions of contemporary design to be purchased for the Victoria and Albert Museum. It’s a great moment for me as we have all worked so hard in the past six months in the creation of this fund, and knowing that the V&A will now have the funding to buy and support contemporary design is wonderful. I say my goodbyes and take a gentle stroll home in the warm autumnal London evening.

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