Alas, for U.S.-based fans of the “quintessentially English” fabric company Bennison, a visit to the London shop will no longer require a flight overseas. Founders Gilly and Geoffrey Newberry, who launched the Pimlico Road favorite after antiques dealer and decorator Geoffrey Bennison’s death in 1985, have managed to deliver a proper dose of English sensibility to the United States by bringing the esteemed fabric house to both the east and west coasts.
In New York, Bennison’s expansive showroom is on the third floor of the Fine Arts Building, a six-story cast-iron and brick building on 59th Street that was intended to be the carriage house for Bloomingdale’s a hundred years ago—a nice match for a company with a predilection for nostalgia.
The Los Angeles shop (pictured here) just opened this month in a completely remodeled double-fronted 1930s building right in the heart of the Design and Decoration district known as Melrose West.
Both showrooms were designed by Geoffrey Newberry, who incorporated Bennison’s traditional Gustavian style vis-a-vis dado paneled walls lined with hand-printed silks, wide oak floors and painted antique furniture with an 18th-century French provincial flair.
The Bennison name has been well known by Londoners since the designer’s heyday in the late 1970s and early ’80s, when he achieved cult-like status with his Pimlico Road shop, which catered to those who appreciated his wit and distinctive style. He filled English country houses and flats of the well-to-do with bold, often oversized furnishings and rare, well-worn antique fabrics that he noticed were becoming difficult, if not impossible, to find.
It was this rather unusual situation, combined with the immutable laws of supply and demand, that led to Bennison’s collaboration with designer Gilly Newberry, who worked closely with Bennison to create fabrics based on documents from the late 18th and 19th centuries, particularly hand-blocked textiles from France, England and East India. Together they developed design concepts of muted prints and colors that fade gracefully into the decor rather than compete with it, a quality essential to the Bennison signature aesthetic even today.