"NANCY LANCASTER: Her Life, Her World, Her Art" by Robert Becker

"NANCY LANCASTER: Her Life, Her World, Her Art"

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Romantic family history meets interior design and gardening in this life of Virginia-born Nancy Lancaster, who gets credit here for creating the English Country style--homey chintz in baronial spaces. Freelance writer Becker skillfully melds third-person biography and first-person memoir (based on Lancaster's writings and Becker's interviews with her) in this unusual narrative. Lancaster's life story begins in a cottage in Virginia, where she was born, and ends in a cottage in England, where she died in August 1994 at the age of 96. In between were three husbands and a life of riding, shooting, and shopping for the furniture and fixtures that would justify her reputation as an interior designer. It was Lancaster's talent to bring comfort and warmth to tired and gloomy manor rooms without damaging a sense of history and authentic detail. Born to the oldest of the famously beautiful Langhorne sisters--her aunts included Lady Astor and the wife of artist Charles Dana Gibson--Lancaster first married Henry Field (of Chicago's Marshall Field family). Widowed within five months, she next married Ronald Tree, a wealthy American who made his home in England and his reputation as a member of Parliament. It was as Mrs. Tree that Lancaster became known as a designer and hostess in a series of houses that culminated in Ditchley, the English manor where Winston Churchill spent weekends during WW II. After a divorce from Tree and a brief third marriage (to one Jubie Lancaster), she bought a decorating business, Colefax and Fowler, which became one of England's most prestigious firms. A manual of room arrangement and garden design combined with a view of a now-extinct lifestyle where newspapers were ironed for weekend guests that should capture students of design and history.

Pub Date: Feb. 16th, 1996
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Knopf