At Home with Lydia Bingham-Swale
This month, we're hugely proud to have been invited to the Bingham-Swales' charming home. Lydia's husband, Roland, is of course known to millions as the man behind classical chart sensastions 'Allegro' as well as rock violinist Joseph Morton and pop-opera trio 'Menage'. But we've come to his delightful French hideaway to meet his beautiful wife, Lydia. A successful model in her own right, Lydia gave the catwalk up immediately after her wedding (covered in FU issue 357) and now, with characteristic modesty, describes herself simply as a housewife. She greets us in her salon, dressed simply but with exquisite elegance, and invites us to sit down - evidence of her aristocratic good manners.
Though she turned her back on modelling almost five years ago, she slips effortlessly back into natural poses as our photographer sets to work, capturing images of Lydia's sensational interior design.
FU Magazine - Lydia, could you tell us about your inspiration for this room?
Lydia B-S - I was hugely inspired by a recent charity trip to Africa. I took away a real sense of hospitality and warmth, so I wanted to re-create a little of that here in France, for Roland. Many of the pieces (including this Moroccan mirror) were shipped over especially, and I actually revarnished this chair by myself, for a really personal touch. It was exhausting but completely worth it. Love is sacrifice, and I love Roland more every day.
Interviewer's note - Lydia keeps her charity work very much to herself, but she's in a wonderfully open mood today, and as she drinks a large glass of wine (Lydia doesn't eat solid food after 11am) she obviously relaxes, and gives us some truly moving insights into her charity work, and how the emotional pain she experienced when modelling has fueled her desire to end pain around the world.
FU Magazine - Lydia, you certainly do have a beautiful collection of furniture. Do you collect anything else during your trips abroad?
Lydia B-S - Oh yes. I actually have a fine collection of gags and bondage rope. Modelling so extensively in New York gave me a huge appreciation of the BDSM community, it's such a beautiful culture and a some extraordinary designers are attracted to this field. So I love to support their work by collecting limited edition equipment. For example, I have a ring-gag here, fashioned in pure silver and padded with the very softest leather which has been injected with botox for extra comfort. It's a real favourite, I'll try it on for you.
Lydia's patronage of the BDSM world has long been an open showbiz secret, but we're immensely honoured that Lydia is sharing so much of herself with us. Her taste really is superb, each item in her collection of gags a sparkling triumph of invention. And she wears them with the grace of a model, the charm of an aristocrat. FU Magazine is briefly concerned that perhaps she has had a little more wine than her slender frame can actually take, but as she reclines on her self-designed Portugese sofa and invites our photographer to bind her with a rare Maniti-designed length of soft rope, we feel that this is a side of Lydia Bingham-Swale which she is eager to share with the world....
Certain newspapers made some hurtful and scandalous claims following Lydia's marriage to Roland Bingham-Swale, centering on her previous relationships, all of which had been with multi-millionaires. But here, in their large, tasteful, but somehow humble 'home-in-France', we can see that such claims were nonsense. Lydia clearly cares very little for the luxury of her surroundings, preferring to talk about her patronage of up-and-coming bondage designers. 'Of course I went out with rich men' she laughs, when we bring up the subject of the newspaper reports. 'I only had a chance to meet rich men while I was a model, it's extremely hard to meet non-show business people. But Roland is so romantic, and I just knew I'd found a soul-mate, someone I could lean on. And that's what he wanted too. We really are so very, very lucky, and we know we'd be just as happy if we were full-time charity workers, and lived in a semi-detached sort of house, even a terraced house! As long as I could still help people, we'd be fine.'
Our photographer, with kind and knowledgeable instruction from Lydia, has now managed to tie her up beautifully on her sofa. She closes her eyes, dreamily. 'One day, I'll open up my own school to teach people the art of bondage. I know I've got a gift as a teacher, and to waste a gift if the worst thing you can do in this life. It's just so wonderful to be able to exchange power between you and your partner - everyone should really try it'. It's impossible not to notice how beautifully constructed Lydia's figure is; her legs are endlessly long, and she has the bone structure which has become famous in family - her mother, aunt and grandmother were all famous society beauties. We ask Lydia if perhaps her family shared her interest in the art of rope-work, but she assures us that this is not the case. 'It was quite a risky decision to become a patron of the BDSM community, especially since all the women in my family mainly like to ride, and mostly don't have an awful lot of time for the arts. But it's something I believe in so passionately, that I couldn't help myself, I had to get involved whole-heartedly.'
Lydia certainly is extremely wholehearted. Her breathing has become rather shallow, and I wonder if perhaps the time has come to take our leave. As I stand to go, she beckons the photographer back - doubtless she wishes to give him some further advice - as an ex-model, her critical eye for photography is extremely fine, and her exceptional good-breeding ensures that she loses no opportunity to be of service...
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