Reading the news I learned that our former MP and PM, David Cameron, and his wife, Sam, had been holidaying at one of the resorts designed by Jaime Parladé. And that reminded me that the obituary of him I wrote for one of the British national newspapers, the Telegraph, was never published. I knew Jaime slightly, and liked him, and it is sad that this fascinating man’s life has not been remembered as it ought to have been. So prompted by the Camerons, I’m posting my obituary now.
Jaime Parladé y Sanjuanena, 3rd marquess of Apezteguia, who has died in his native Spain, aged 84, was a celebrated international decorator. Via his wife, Janetta, he had ties with survivors of the Bloomsbury group, particularly the late Frances Partridge, in whose published diaries they often feature. Though he had no training or academic qualifications, and was guided solely by his own taste, his clients included plutocrats and pop stars, as well as other aristocrats and grandees with great houses. Parladé refused corporate commissions; his clients either began as friends, or, owing to his great charm, became friends. He decorated a country house in Connecticut for Diana Ross of the Supremes, did up a place in Moorish Caprice style for the Duchess of Alba, Jacob Rothschild’s olive mill in Corfu, and Santa Margarita in Marbella for the Baron Guy and Marie-Hélène de Rothschild. He hated being referred to as an “interior decorator,” as he considered what he did to be modest labour “only two rungs above hairdressing and one above dressmaking.” He began as an antique dealer, opening his first La Tartana shop in 1958.
There are examples of his work in the 2014 book, Jaime Parladé, A Personal Style, and many others can be seen online. Though he would sometimes hang the walls of clients’ draughty drawing rooms with gorgeous tapestries or gilt-framed portraits, he was equally capable of suggesting to a client that he paint the beams of his French château a fairly shocking pink.
Born in San Sebastian in 1930, he was the eldest of three sons of Jaime Parladé Gross and Paloma de Sanjuanena y Fontagud, 14th countess of Alcudia. The family moved to Tangiers, where Jaime was brought up, as his father was Director of Telfónica, the Spanish telephone company that served the independent international zone city. They lived in a flat on the fourth floor, of the city’s then tallest office building. His anglophile father (whose own diplomat father had been ennobled by Alfonso XIII in 1883) spoke to the children in English (another of the brothers also married an Englishwoman), while their mother spoke to them in French.
The adolescent Jaime was sent to Andalusia to be taught by the Jesuits, which he did not enjoy; he did however, relish living with his grandmother. There he learned a good deal from watching his great-aunt add to her collection of antiques, buying wartime black-market objects from travelling traders. His father had ambitions for Parladé to become a diplomat, and sent him to Granada to read law. But these plans were thwarted by his mastery of languages, when an introduction to the mistress of Rafael Trujillo, the dictator of the Dominican Republic, resulted in him being offered the job of accompanying her and the dictator’s children by her on their travels in Europe.
He gravitated to Marbella, the seaside town that had not yet become an international tourist attraction. His practised eye impressed his friends, and he was asked to buy antiques and furnishings for them. “This,” says his good-natured, chatty website, “was during those glorious early years of Marbella, and all of the best jobs were undertaken by Jaime Parladé.” His career really started when he began collaborating with the architect Duarte Pinto Coelho “in the furnishing of the Hotel Gualdalmina” in 1958. This led them to open the first shop, in a basement close to La Encarnacion, “the main church of Marbella. It not only became the social centre of Marbella, but it was from there that most of the interior decorating jobs were done.” He identified his clients as the “families of the nobility and important people who made up the social and intellectual life of Marbella and the coast, mostly in the Marbella Club, Gualdalmina and Sotogrande.”
Parladé, who was bisexual, cut a glamorous figure, slim and elegant, with silvery-sided, two-tone hair, and a pullover casually tossed over his shoulders. He was raffish good company even in old age, always a generous host and a good raconteur. Having worked on a couple of big developments, hotels, blocks of flats and the first bungalows near the Gold Hotel in Sotogrande, he joined up again with Coelho, to design and furnish the Hotel La Fonda in the centre of Marbella.
The guests were drawn from Coelho and Parladé’s chums at the Marbella Club, the Bar Menchu (decorated by Parladé) and other hot spots of the resort, but also included royals such as the king of Belgium and the duke of Windsor, and movie stars of the period, such as Sean Connery, Kim Novak, Lauren Bacall, Omar Sharif and Brigitte Bardot. When the Rolling Stones stayed at La Fonda, Parladé remembered, “It really stank of dope.”
He met his future wife, Janetta (née Woolley), who had previously been married to the scientist, Derek Jackson, and then to the writer and broadcaster, Robert Kee, at an Andalusian house frequented by Hemingway. They married in 1971, living in a succession of houses, of which the first was Torre de Tramores, later sold to Jimmy Goldsmith. Both were keen gardeners, and the garden at their house at Alcuzcuz includes a pergola smothered in wisteria and trumpet vines. In 2007 a Spanish journalist* summed up Parladé: “With the disdain of a dandy, [he] enslaves his clients like a gigolo. He is the person that gives splendour to the houses of the powerful….Parladé lives apart from the riffraff and the sequins of the world in a doll’s house, protected by hornets and cicadas.”
Parladé is survived by Janetta, and her three children, one of whom, Georgie Kee, runs the antiques business.
Jaime Parladé y Sanjuanena, 3rd marquess of Apezteguia, interior decorator, born 17 May 1930, died 16 January 2015 . [on dialysis three times a week, but died of heart attack.]
* Raul del Pozo
Agosto 2007 [translation from website www.jaimeparlade.com ]