I was surprised... Leslie Walford is no more. Leslie reigned, untouched by human hand (or by invitation only) for fifty plus years. Actually not quite correct, Leslie’s showroom (not a shop… not ever) was always populated by numbers of handsome, busy, talented young men. He was always attended. There are very few people who have had the impact on Australian lifestyle that Leslie Walford has. His impact of the design scene was extraordinary, his reach far. Leslie was born a gentleman and raised that way, he was from an Australian aristocratic family, educated in Australia, the UK and Paris, his credentials were impeccable, his taste and style resolutely old world and only the best would do. I entered the world of Interior Design in 1970 or there about having emerged from seven years as a clerk with a bank and then escaped into a world that was simply so foreign to that which I had known. Peopled by arty men and women in all manner of creative design, it was as if I had come home, found my niche. Names like Freddie Assmussen, Leslie Walford, Lady Marion Hall Best, young designers of furniture like The Hon Merlin Cunliffe, Rob Walters for modern lighting, Greg Irvine for art and on and on. I was home, sloshing around in a world where I was completely at ease and delighted. Often confused, occasionally lost, but knowing that the place I was sloshing around in was where I had to be. Finding a way through this mire of beauty was far from easy, but it was also a time when we were encouraged to pursue. It was the time when the world threw off the horrors of war, unshackled from the past and forged ahead. Bentleigh was a strange place to start, even stranger since the bloke running the business was far from stable and in the end turned into a religious nut, leaving his wife and family and losing the business. I was able to quickly learn how to not run a design business, for that I was thankful. Lacking any formal education in design which, at the time was not readily available anyway, apart from Fine Art courses, was not an impediment, I had spent a couple of years in training pants to get to know the industry and to have contacts with great manufacturers and suppliers. I plunged in at the deep end and opened a small, but stylish interior design shop in Hampton. Sadly I was not raised on a diet of high end antiques, French court furniture and silk textiles, rather on comfortable couches, moderately awful fabrics and a little style. I was an empty vessel and filling me was a happy thing as I glided in and out of endless arty events, meetings, greetings and associations, I was learning the world of antiques, the world of colour, textiles of great beauty, meeting stylists and creators of everything from great furniture, lighting, art, woodworkers, lamp shade makers, it was endless and I loved it all. I gave free reign to my creative self, falling in and out of love with music, clothing and even church. I loved the pomp and ritual of High Anglicanism and only in time learned that it was the breeding ground for so much of the talent that was burgeoning. I seemed to have all the right credentials, just lacked the filling. An unfilled sponge!
Luck was on my side and I found myself immersed in a world where style, beauty, design and simply quality were much appreciated, where people did not regard their possessions as mere objects to be discarded as the next wave came crashing on the shore of mediocrity. I am reminded of this each time I look at upholstered furniture. In the days gone by, in fact in the early days, padded and upholstered furniture was seen with glorious textiles, often hand made, but in fact with little to recommend it for comfort, in the evolution of this form of seating, webbing, springs, feathers and design all began to exert themselves and when I was in the world of design, the furniture was well made on a good solid frame of timber, well sprung on webbing and often in the higher end pieces, with sprung edge under the seat cushions. This, along with some good design styles, some classic such as Chesterf