Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Hunting Lodge- Then and Now

One of the most charming houses featured in the recently published John Fowler: Prince of Decorators (written by Martin Wood) is Fowler's beloved country house, the "Hunting Lodge" . The Gothick style house is actually quite small, but this limitation did not deter Fowler. According to Wood's book, Fowler wanted to create a home that was "utterly unpretentious, very comfortable, with a veneer of elegance and informality and the feeling that one can sit down anywhere without having to move a chair." When I look at the photos of Fowler's home, I'm struck by the soft, faded colors, the chintz, the Mauny wallpaper, and the charming antique furniture. It is, in the words of Fowler, elegant and supremely comfortable.

After Fowler's death, the Hunting Lodge was deeded to the National Trust. Its current tenant is British designer Nicky Haslam, who has kept much of Fowler's scheme intact (do you think that would happen here in the States?). While Haslam's incarnation is a bit more formal and not quite as faded, it's still cozy and inviting nonetheless. British
House & Garden recently published an article on Haslam's country home, so I thought I would show a comparison between the Hunting Lodge of each of these design legends.

The sitting room designed by Fowler. The color of the walls was "Sienna Pink", according to Wood.

Haslam's version of the sitting room; note that Haslam kept the Sienna Pink color for the walls.

The dining room from the Fowler era: originally this room had been a front hall. Fowler added trompe l'oeil paneling, a chest of drawers, and an upholstered chair to keep the room from looking like a "dead dining room".

Haslam's dining room, which was the only major change from Fowler's scheme. Haslam eliminated the wall between Fowler's smaller dining room and a service kitchen to create a larger room.

One of my favorite rooms from the Hunting Lodge- here, Fowler converted this little hallway and stairwell into a small library and study. The wallpaper is Mauny.

I'm so glad Haslam chose to keep this beautiful wallpaper, seen in the background.

Fowler painted his bedroom in blue distemper and applied a Mauny border vertically (a trick that Fowler also used in other homes). The bed hanging is "Victoria" chintz.

Once again, Haslam chose not to alter Fowler's scheme.

Fowler's summer house is still there too!

(Haslam images from UK House & Garden, photographer Simon Brown. Fowler quotations from "John Fowler: Prince of Decorators" by Martin Wood)


  1. what a cozy house! I'll have to run out to get B H&G to check out the rest of it! I'm normally not a pink fan -but that living room is so charming!

  2. I agree, it's very cool that Haslam kept Fowler's imprint, and I doubt that would happen here as often (Didn't you write about Bunny Williams keeping the walls of a previous owner/decorator?)

    Anyway, I do miss Fowler's yellow sitting room chair. Just loved how he used yellow!

  3. Charming before and after. The study at the foot of the stairs is so cozy. I would love to stay at a landmark trust property in the future.

  4. Be the Change- The whole article is interesting; it also includes two images of his London flat.

  5. Courtney- Yes, that yellow is smashing against the pink walls. And there is also a green pouf in the center (you can only see the bullion fringe in this photo) that I'm sure looked great against that yellow chair and the pink walls.

  6. London- You should do that! Then you can blog about it so the rest of us can live vicariously!

  7. It is the most wonderful house; I have had the luck to go there, once upon a time. That lovely pink in the sitting room has faded and altered and mottled over the years, so it's initial strength has been poetically diluted. That's the great thing about Fowler's work, which is difficult to appreciate in the States—the fact that the paint degrades over time and does not remain strong. Also that the paint has variations and isn't entirely perfect, as in American paint jobs. I don't know exactly how that's done, but I do know that Fowler worked with his painters to get that quality precisely. It recalls a story of a client who asked for a particular shade of pink for her walls but got a brighter, bold one instead; Fowler calmed her by saying that the paint color he used was unstable enough that it would fade to the shade she requested. If he had done it her way, it would have faded to something else entirely.

  8. Aesthete- Yes, the paint color has character and a sense of history, so to speak. I think I read that Fowler achieved this particular color using pig's blood and distemper, maybe? (And I'm quite jealous you've seen the house firsthand! ;)

  9. Jennifer - this is the kind of before and after I can get behind. No empty rooms, no design bashing, just comparing good and good. Wonderful that both versions are so strong.

  10. Great post Jennifer, I always love a before and after - especially when two great designers are involved!

  11. Great study! Both yours and the photo of Fowler's. I'd have to do away with the bar room to replicate it, but it's the only time I've been tempted to do so.

    I like the idea of paint that fades away elegantly over time. (I plan to do so myself. Without the aid of pig's blood, or God help me, distemper.) The only constant, after all, is change.

  12. Easy- I believe that there must be a cleaner method of achieving such gorgeous paint colors- without pig's blood and such!

  13. May I be so rude as to suggest,in this polite discourse,
    that Mr Halsam hasn't a clue how to live in that
    charming house? The point of Mr Fowler's approach was understatement~he'd never have imposed chinoiserie on those rough dining room walls. And that sofa in the sitting room, with table behind it, encroaches on what is a diminutive space.

  14. Anonymous7:19 AM

    I have always loved this house and have often wondered what Nicky has done with it. What is the date of the House & Garden article? I will have to search for a back issue.

  15. Anon- I think it would have been the Feb or Mar '08 issue of British H&G. Let me try to find my copy and I'll report back.

  16. Anonymous9:55 PM

    It's the Feb '08 issue. I've contacted H & G, they have no back issues available, wah!

    I think the chinoiserie painting in the dining room is charming. It reminds me of the hand-painted Drottningholm paper in Nancy's Palladian room at Hasely (I *know* you all know it). What I find inappropriate are the huge plinth and urn! I like overscale, but those are simply monstrous in this tiny room.

  17. Just came upon this article. I was a regular visitor with John Fowler back in the early seventies. Being the son-in-law of Sir Michael and Lady Redgrave, whose summer retreat was Wilke's Water at the end of John's garden, I spent many a weekend with the family, and an evening at the Hunting Lodge was always a part of it. So glad to see the place is being kept up, with taste.

  18. Anonymous11:33 AM

    The dining room is incorrectly described. These two photos do not show the same area of the house. Fowler used the original entrance hall as a dining room, but the room Haslam uses as a dining room is actually located in the newer cottage attached to the Hunting Lodge. It's next to the study, which is through the doorway at the extreme left of the Haslam dining room photo. The wall that was knocked down was in the cottage, not in the Hunting Lodge proper. Nicky Haslam did not change the old front hall at all, it's used as an extra sitting area now.