Lord Kenilworth – Raddle Siddeley as he is professionally known – talks about the garden as an extension of the living room, the importance of personality and why landscapes should look great naked!
Growing up in 1960s London it was inevitable that Randle Siddeley would work in the world of design. His father was the prominent interior designer John Siddeley, and the big names in design at the time often dropped by the family home.
"You get to grow up in the fraternity of the interior designers and see some very interesting styles of people, interesting characters," he says.
As a child, Siddeley says he was reclusive, in large part because of the stigma attached to his dyslexia, and he spent many happy hours during the holidays getting his hands dirty in the garden of their country house in Suffolk. But all around him were the colourful characters who would influence his personality. The English design legend David Hicks, renowned for his distinctly bold, high-gloss, high end interiors, was a friend of the family. "My father was a unique character, and great personality is what you need in this business," Siddeley says. "You can't afford to be shy, or not forthcoming or clear with your feelings and views."
Siddeley inherited not only his father's title – Lord Kenilworth (he is professionally known as Randle Siddeley) – but also his creative genius. After studying architecture and design he dabbled in restoration, then began working for his father. "It was a challenge," he says. "He made it clear I'd be doing the worst jobs that no one else would do."
Eighteen months into working in the family business his father passed on a project that needed a garden design and suggested he have a go. That was 42 years ago and he still counts that first client among his clients today.
An expert landscape designer and landscape architect, his work isn't all that different from what his father was doing as an interior designer. "The garden is effectively the extension of your living room," Siddeley says. "Although it doesn't have a roof, it has walls – green walls, brick walls – and it has different rooms, so it's about understanding how to maximise the space."
Yet one of the big draws of gardens over interiors is that no two gardens are the same and Siddeley appears to thrive on the constant change. "All the projects I do, whether they are in Kazakhstan or Canada, are different – the climate is different, the people are different, the temperaments are different and where you get the materials is different. Nothing is ever the same."
More than 30 years ago he took on his first overseas project – in Turkey – and since then he has worked all over the world, including Syria, Lebanon, France, the US, Canada, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong. His book Garden (published 2011) showcases many of his standout UK projects – look out for those in Chelsea Harbour and Wembley Stadium – but also in Russia and the Middle East. In Quebec he created a magnificent garden to complement the splendour of a country home built in palatial Franco-Russian style.
When he founded his business in London in 1975 there was no "design and build" in landscape gardening, rather a designer created the design and then a subcontractor implemented it. He decided from the outset that he wanted to be involved in the whole process.
This is an excerpt from the “Land lord" article from the September 2017 issue of Perspective magazine.
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