Pop icon Madonna once said of her pal and confidante, interior designer David Collins (1955 – 2013) “When I look around my houses in New York or London, I am struck by what an influence he has had on me. He has left his souvenirs everywhere: his touch, his taste, his flair and his blue.”
Whether designing private homes in New York and London for Ms. Ciccone, impeccable retail spaces, Marcus Wareing’s restaurant at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel ,the Blue Bar in Belgravia or Larusmiani in Milan, David left souvenirs of his flair, taste, his unique touch and knowledge of all things chic and beautiful everywhere he went. Eschewing then-trendy chintz for comfortable seating , a variety of textures and saturated colors, Collins was a stickler for getting the details—among them, flattering lighting– right. He liked to quote Mies van der Rohe: “God is in the details”. He might paint a wall in 17 shades of blue for just the right effect—or commission a blacksmith to create a custom piece of furniture. His luxurious style reached well and far beyond London and restaurant design, and included plump upholstery, silver leaf, banquettery. But, above all, Collins believed that “the whole experience should be fun”. Influenced more by good conversation, music, art, food, a good party and a laugh than showrooms, trade fairs and magazines, and never predictable or homogeneous, he created a look that was at once, glamorous, but also unintimidating and familiar, having a knack for making a newly opened venue seem exciting and fresh, yet old and established. Indeed, his own apartment served as a design lab and playground for his ideas, wit and generosity. Collins left an indelible mark on London’s restaurant and hotel design scene of the past two decades.
Collins’ London drawing room
Collins lighthearted sense of design, manifested in attaching a Line Vautrin paperweight as a door handle during a photo shoot
Born in 1955 to Dublin architect Jack Collins and his wife Helen, David was youngest of four children. Even though at an early age he had a strong eye for light and color, Collins did not capitalize on those natural abilities until later in life. After attending St. Conleth’s School, he wanted to enter into law, however, he turned to design after he realized he lacked the prerequisite courses in Latin, after which he became enrolled in the Bolton Street School of Architecture. A friend asked for help designing the interior of his house, about which Collins said “I knew nothing”. The result, in a stoke of luck, caught the eye of chef Pierre Koffmann, who commissioned Collins to refurbish his restaurant, La Tante Claire on Royal Hospital Road in Chelsea. Collins took as his starting point the name of Koffmann’s daughter, Camille, using the deep pinks and ivory of that flower. Collins started his titular firm, David Collins Studio, in 1985. In 1988, he was asked to update the interior of Harveys for chef Marco Pierre White. The project was a smash hit. Later on Collins worked in partnership with the Maybourne Group, completing redesigns of the bars of the celebrated hotels, Claridge’s, the Connaught, and the Blue Bar at the Berkeley, where traces of his early love affair with pale blue reemerged in his painting of the Lutyens paneling. Another influence to Collins’ aesthetic was Hollywood glamour; many hours were spent in his youth at the local library perusing old black and white photos of movie stars. After 1998 he worked with Rex Restaurant Associates, designing five locations for Chris Corbett and Jeremy King, among them the Delaunay and the Wolesley. Other commissions included Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road (1998), Nobu Berkeley Street, the Charles apartment building on the Upper East Side in New York City. He also designed interiors for retail, including Jimmy Choo, Harrods and Alexander McQueen. And, as it is said, “the rest is history”.
The Ritz-Carlton Residences at MahaNakon in Bangkok
Gentleman’s compact wardrobe in blue suede by David Collins, made for his home
Alexander McQueen’s flagship store on Bond Street, London, by David Collins Studio
David Collins passed away in 2013 from melanoma, three weeks after being diagnosed. At his insistence, his firm David Collins Studio, continues to this day.