podcast | Mar 11, 2024 |
Veere Grenney: An outsider’s eye for beauty

Back in the 1970s, the “hippie trail” took young travelers from London down to Southeast Asia and Australia via the Middle East. Veere Grenney was on the same journey, but in reverse. Born and raised in New Zealand, Grenney dropped out halfway through university in search of adventure—a quest that took him to the Australian outback, throughout Asia and Morocco, and finally to West London, where he immersed himself in the antiques industry of Portobello Road. It was there that he learned he had an eye for design.

“Everybody talked about someone else’s eye, and I didn’t know what they meant,” the designer tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast. “I used to think, ‘Well, my eyes are blue,’ until I realized it was an indefinable thing that understands beauty,[which manifests itself in] how they sit with something and what they purchase. That became the beginning of the life of beauty—or the pursuit of it.”

Others quickly took notice of Grenney’s particularly eclectic eye, and he attracted designer friends like David Hicks and Mary Fox Linton, whom he ended up working under at Fox Linton Associates, in a role that kick-started his decorating career. “The thing that stood me apart beyond all else from everybody in the company at the time was how good I was with people. How much at ease I was with any person, from the plumber or the builder you were dealing with on-site to a client who may be someone quite powerful or quite influential,” he says. “I was a stranger; I wasn’t English. Every situation I was given was easy to me, and that was a huge bonus.” From there, Grenney went on to work at Colefax & Fowler before founding his eponymous firm, a regular in shelter magazines and on the AD100.

Crucial insight: Grenney discussed the wealth of knowledge he inherited from David Hicks. “Hicks copied everything from [Billy] Baldwin, so I copied everything from Hicks. There’s granddad, father and son, the three of us,” he quips. “David Hicks would anchor a room beautifully [with] a lovely piece of furniture or a commode or a couple of sofas—then there’s always things you could move [around]. There are lovely, very pretty French chairs or open-arms, stools or ottomans—all the things you can move to make conversation good. But the room was anchored by greats, and I think I do the same thing.”

Key quote: “Eclecticism is so much easier when you are not constrained by the rigors of social thinking; in other words, when you are a stranger in a different place and a new land,” says Grenney. “You see it differently, and therefore you often use something that others may regard as modest, [but] you use it in a way that’s actually very, very beautiful, because you’re not saddled with the same responsibilities as people that have been brought up in and live true to a place.”

Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode is sponsored by Spring Street by Pollack and Crypton.

Thursday Show

BOH executive editor Fred Nicolaus joins host Dennis Scully to go over the biggest news in the industry, including a new AI startup from a superstar athlete, the shutdown of Renovation Angel and a look at the latest microtrend sweeping TikTok. Later, sustainability columnist Laura Fenton discusses practical steps to a greener design firm.

Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode is sponsored by Loloi and Chelsea House.

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