Chatsworth, located in Derbyshire, has long been the standard to which British estate owners aspire. When Andrew, the 11th Duke of Devonshire, inherited the property in the 1950s it was drowning in debt, a fate that unfortunately was and still is quite common for these large estates. Andrew's wife Deborah the Duchess of Devonshire (commonly known as Debo) was up to the challenge of running such an estate, and she instituted a variety of businesses such as a farm shop that brought in much needed revenue.
Andrew died recently, and Deborah has in turn become the Dowager Duchess. She has also moved out of the "big house", turning it over to her son and daughter in law, and is now living in a smaller house on the property known as the Old Vicarage. With some help from London decorator David Mlinaric, Deborah has created a comfortable and cozy house, much in contrast to her former grand residence. What I find interesting is that at age 87 she has made some rather daring choices- just look at the silver foil-papered powder room! The living room is a mixture of overstuffed upholstered pieces, so characteristic of the English country look, and sleek brass trim on the walls. Deborah's art collection is just as eclectic, with traditional oil paintings, modern pieces, and photos of Elvis, her idol, displayed. All in all, a slightly eccentric home for a singular personality. After all, she was one of the Mitford sisters.
(The Dowager Duchess has written numerous books on Chatsworth, including: The Duchess of Devonshire's Chatsworth Cookery Book, Round and About Chatsworth, and Counting My Chickens... And Other Home Thoughts )
Photos of her dining room and the stairwell
View of the living room
The silver powder room with Elvis, and Elvis again on the mantle
Photo of Chatsworth, circa 1985, by Derry Moore
(Photos of Old Vicarage from W Magazine, May 2007)