Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Soane Mystique




History has produced but a small coterie of architects and designers whose work continues to inspire us today. One person who figures prominently in this pantheon is Sir John Soane, the visionary British architect. Well versed in the Neoclassical style, Soane designed both private manor houses as well as public buildings (most notably the Bank of England). However, it is Soane's home at 12-14 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London (now known as Sir John Soane's Museum), that has inspired legions of fans through the years. Built in the late 18th c. and added on to during the early 19th c., the home is a sterling example of Soane's refined aesthetic and his no nonsense practicality.

There are a few rooms in particular that seem to enthrall visitors. The Breakfast Room is a marvel in design. In order to maximize the light in an otherwise dark space, Soane topped the room with a domed ceiling and oculus. He then added small convex mirrors throughout the room- in the archways, around the fireplace surround- to help reflect the light. It is highly effective and pleasing to the eye too.

The Library, characterized by segmented arches and Gothic accents, is noted for its rich Pompeiian red walls and bronze green trim. Trust me, the combination of these two rich colors is extremely handsome- you really have to see it in person to appreciate the complexity of the colors.

And I can't forget to mention Soane's collection of antiquities and architectural ruins, displayed en masse throughout the home: in the Dome Area; the Colonnade; the Sepulchral Chamber. It's staggering to think that one man is responsible for such an important collection!

So, how do modern day designers channel the spirit of Soane? Well, let me show you. And I'll add that I think Sir John Soane would be quite proud of their efforts.


An arch in the red and green Library of Sir John Soane


An homage to the Soane style, on a small scale, in a library designed by Josef Johns.


The home of Stephen Calloway. Note the rich red walls, the green trim, and trompe l'oeil painted arches.


Soane's Breakfast Room. Note the convex mirrors inset into the arches and the ceiling.


A detail shot of the ceiling of the Breakfast Room.



David Mlinaric designed this Soane-esque dining room/library in the home of Lord Rendlesham. Look at the marvelous ceiling.



A tribute to Soane's impressive collection in the flat of Peter Hone. Some of the antiquities and fragments are real, while others are faux (the columns on the walls are actually engravings that have been glued to the wall)


Another view of the Hone flat.

17 comments:

  1. Oh those red walls! I loved your comparisons here Jennifer. Great post!

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  2. I was there about 10 years ago, after having lunch with a friend who's at the bar at Lincoln's Inn... I had a long fur coat on, which the doorman at the museum took for me. As I started walking away, he said under his breath, "I'll be sure to feed it". When I turned around to look at him and laugh, he had the most somber look on his face. I just cracked up laughing!

    The Museum is just the most marvelous place, full of surprises and architectural genuis!

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  3. Pigtown- Oh yes, you basically sign your life away at the door! (Just kidding, but you do have to leave everything- coat, handbag, bags- at the front.) One visit is not enough; I think you have to go back many times to really absorb everything.

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  4. This is a great post, Jennifer. Loved seeing the original rooms then the ones under the influence.

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  5. Balsamfir3:03 PM

    I've seen a few photos of part of this in an eighties book on on Color by Annie Sloan, but not the ones you post. Where are they from? Are there more photos, since London is not available this year?

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  6. There are more photos of Peter Hone's flat in 'London Interiors'. I love it!

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  7. Thank you for doing this post! I have been to London many, many times and have not heard of this museum. I will definitely check it out during my visit this summer! I looked at the website, and they have a Robert Adams collection. Adams is one of my all time favorite architects! I am in for a treat! GREAT post.

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  8. Balsamfir- Check out "English Style" for photos of the Calloway apt; "Classic Style" for the Hone photos. A reader was kind enough to share these images with me, so I unfortunately don't have them in my library! I wish I did :)

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  9. Ooh, that red! how devine. What a wonderful post.

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  10. Soane's designs for mausolea are incomparably chic.

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  11. muriel8:58 AM

    The Soane Mystique, a great post! I love it!

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  12. Balsamfir11:58 AM

    Thanks.

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  13. The library designed by Johns is striking! If one were to think of paying homage to Soane, on paper it would seem impossible. Josef Johns seems to capture his work effortlessly yet with restrain; a true testament to a good designer!

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  14. Midnight- I completely agree!

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  15. Fantastic! I've so enjoyed this post and we'll have to visit next time we get to London. Thanks for taking us to the peak of chic, again.

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  16. What a wonderful post! I stumbled upon your blog as my husband and I are moving to Atlanta this summer and I am searching for design inspiration. I first encountered Soane in a college architectural class and it was a treat to visit his home in London a few years back. Thank you for sharing!

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