Setting out to learn the steps for a career in fashion, Fiona Ward-Jackson soon found herself involved in a different dance, and is now an independent interior designer it is no great surprise to learn that Fiona Ward-Jackson originally wanted to work in fashion – she certainly looks the part. However, things worked out differently. More by chance than intention, her first job was with a small decorating company, Henrietta Designs, where she had ‘to do a bit of everything’. It was a great way to learn the business, and she happily fell into being a decoration rather than fashion person. She went on to work for decorator Emily Todhunter and now undertakes commissions on her own.
Fiona and her husband Charles live in a flat on two floors of a nineteenth-century house in Pimlico. The drawing room and kitchen-dining room are separated by a wide hall but their large, door-less openings mean that they can be used as an integrated space running from the front to the back of the house. This makes entertaining pleasantly relaxed, with friends able to wander from room to room without the party seeming fragmented. But it also makes it imperative that the functional aspect of the kitchen is played down, especially as the dining table is fairly close to the cooking area. So when Fiona designed the room, she concealed the fridge with a panel painted to blend in with the wall and devised lighting that, for parties, can be directed on the dining table and artworks rather than the cooker and sink. She also chose an elegant work surface – of dark green Cumbrian slate on which, when it is not in use, is placed modern sculpture. The sink is extra deep in order to ‘swallow up’ and hide pots and pans waiting to be washed later. The dining area is directly in front of the window, where the original architrave and shutters have been restored, and the banquette is covered in beautiful, old, French ticking.
As neither Fiona nor Charles likes late dinners, and most of their entertaining is done midweek after work, the planning of the menus is critical. Fiona says that her cooking has become much simpler, partly because of lack of time and partly because she now prefers the taste of less complicated, more ‘modern’ dishes. She first became interested in food as a child growing up in the Far East. Later, while at school in Scodand, she would spend evenings with a friend cooking elaborate recipes (mainly from The Mirabelle Cookblog), and she went on to do a Cordon Bleu course. It was all useful practice and has given her the confidence to experiment and to speed up her cookery by, for instance, judging quantities by eye whenever practicable, though she does occasionally use measuring jugs and spoons. If she has a free evening, she likes to make in advance such accompaniments as pickled damsons or pears to be served with grilled goats’ cheese or gammon, which are cooked on the night of the party itself. She loves making puddings, particularly old-fashioned ones: a really luxurious bread-and-brftter confection with home-made toffee ice cream is typical.
Below is a selection of Fiona’s favourite recipes.