Genesis of a Decorator

For nearly 50 years Leslie Walford AM (1927–2012) was one of Sydney’s most successful interior designers, the decorator of choice for the city’s social elite and a leading figure in the Society of Interior Designers of Australia (SIDA).

Walford decided to become an interior designer soon after taking his degree at the University of Oxford in 1951. From 1954 to 1955 he lived in Paris and studied at the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs, where he was enrolled in Un cours de Perfectionnement pour les Artistes Décorateurs.  During this time he prepared for his return to Australia in June 1956, organising import licences for antique furniture bought as stock in France and England, and setting up his company, L Walford Pty Ltd. He opened his first showroom at 7 Knox Street, Double Bay, in October 1957.

Leslie Walford and Zara Holt
Leslie Walford and Zara Holt at the opening of the 'Rooms on View' exhibition, 9 October 1967. Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, Sydney Living Museums.

Society Darling

Leslie Walford’s mother, Dora, was a fashionable figure in Sydney society in the 1920s. According to one newspaper columnist, she was one of Sydney’s best-dressed women and ‘the most dashing woman on horseback’, who ‘sits her horse like a professional’. She was an active fundraiser for charity, taking an executive role on committees to organise gala balls and dinners, or theatrical matinees in aid of the Children’s Hospital, the Crown Street Women’s Hospital or the Sydney Industrial Blind Institution.

Dora married four times. Her first husband was Leslie Walford senior, who died in December 1928. She next became Mrs Eric Sheller, then Mrs Ben Knowles Davies and, finally, Mrs Lawrence Byrne.  But Dora was never anything less than her own woman, ambitious, energetic and resilient.

 

23 May 2017 - 1 September 2017

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Society portrait of Dora Walford
Society portrait of Dora Walford, nee Alexander, c1923 / Bernice Agar. Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, Sydney Living Museums.
Mrs Leslie Walford as the wife of the Merchant Prince
Mrs Leslie Walford as the wife of the Merchant Prince, with Anthony Hordern and Pauline MacDonald in the matinee 'In a Persian Garden', held at the Theatre Royal, Sydney, 7 July 1922, in aid of the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children / Harold Cazneaux. Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, Sydney Living Museums.