Anthony Cox is the creative vision behind the product development at Theodore Alexander. I recently caught up with him in his airy home in Saigon to discuss his past, his inspirations and his enthusiasms.
You have lived in Vietnam for over ten years but originally you are from London?
Yes, I was born and raised in Knightsbridge in central London, just around the corner from the Harrods department store and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Of course, in great British tradition I was sent away to boarding school at the age of seven in the Home Counties of England where I mastered the art of playing cricket.
How do you think your typically English background has informed your design aesthetic?
I’m lucky in that my parents were avid art and antique collectors. My mother was a novelist, but also wrote for the National Trust which is a great British institution that protects buildings of outstanding historical interest. I spent much of my childhood visiting the great stately homes – Longleat, Burghley and Knole being some examples. I suppose I became infused with a classical sensibility at an early age and it’s reflected in my designs.
How have your travelling experiences influenced your designs?
I have taken inspiration from so many places in my life. In Europe my favourite city is Paris. There is elegance about French design, especially early 20th century design that will always be relevant.
Further south, my father lived in a 16th century olive mill in the hills above St Tropez. There is something very beguiling about the lifestyle in the south of France, from the landscape to the light to the traditional way of life. It’s more relaxed than the traditional English style and that’s reflected in the furniture.
Later I worked as an antique dealer specializing in Anglo-India Antiques which meant that I spent a lot of time in India. There was also the opportunity to soak in a new world of colours, textures and materials. Inspiration is everywhere in India and Colonial furniture was a particular passion of mine and that has absolutely inspired the designs of much of our campaign furniture. My family spent a lot of time in India in the Victorian and Edwardian periods – I suppose it must be in the blood. The Officer’s and Gentlemen Campaign Desk (7105-188BD) is fitted with images of my ancestors when they were travelling on the subcontinent.
How did you first connect with Theodore Alexander?
I happened across the first Theodore Alexander show in England in 1997 and was blown away by it. I actually approached Paul Maitland-Smith and asked how I could work for such a great furniture maker and I’ve been with Theodore Alexander ever since!
What has been the most interesting project you’ve worked on with TA?
This is a difficult one but for traditional furniture I’d have to say Althorp Living History. I was deeply involved from the concept to the final realization of the Collection. Althorp Living History is the epitome of English stately style, which is something that’s very close to my heart. I’m proud to have helped to create a collection that’s the benchmark of classic English taste. Take the Secretaire cabinet, AL65003, which is a masterpiece of craftsmanship.
Our latest designs have been especially interesting to create 5405-196 and 4005-019RT (below) for example. The vase shape of the chairs harks back to Grecian forms but with a modern silhouette. We used anegre which has not only a rich colour but exceptional 3D depth and luster. The dining table is a simple form of a traditional silhouette. The proportions were very carefully thought out. We’re building on a tradition of proportion and classic lines.
Looking around your house and garden you have blended Theodore Alexander furniture with modern art and antiques.
Yes – I am a big believer in eclectic interiors, combining textures and materials to create a layered feeling. I do not so much ‘style’ my home as collect outstanding, interesting or hand crafted furniture and works of art. I also commission art on a regular basis, such as the large Buddha in the garden which is wonderfully serene. It was hand crafted in the Theodore Alexander foundry. It is enormous and incredibly difficult to create.