Monday, June 23, 2008

English Exuberance




The English are masters of the eccentric look (I'm referring specifically to interiors, but many Brits have proven to be eccentric dressers too). And despite the notion of the British "stiff upper lip", they can also be an exuberant people. British history is filled with grand homes and estates that displayed a vibrancy and an enthusiasm that was uniquely their own.

Whereas our American ancestors might have been tempered by their Puritan roots, many members of the British upper class did not seem constrained by such humility. To me, one of the most exuberant British houses was Brighton Pavilion, that wild and lavish fantasy commissioned by George IV while he was Prince Regent. While many of the Prince Regent's contemporaries ridiculed the Pavilion (and let's face it- many of the rooms are a bit, well, should we say tacky?), perhaps old George had the last laugh. The Pavilion is still standing, still beckoning visitors, and continues to influence interiors, albeit on a smaller scale, around the world.

And while the British were ardent fans of Chinoiserie, they also displayed an eagerness to embrace other styles as well. Here are a few colorful examples:



The Peacock Bedroom at Sezincote, the early 19th century home designed by Samuel Pepys Cockerell in the Mughal style.


The Gallery at Syon House, home of the Duke of Northumberland. Robert Adam was responsible for the glorious interiors of the house.


A bed designed by Robert Adam as a Temple of Venus, c. 1775-76. Located in the State Bedchamber at Osterley


The State Bedchamber at Kedleston Hall. The bed was built in the late 1760s.


Recognize this room? It's the Gothic bedroom at Haseley Court, Nancy Lancaster's country home. The bedroom was a collaborative effort between Lancaster and John Fowler.

Image at top: The Banqueting Room at Brighton Pavilion

24 comments:

  1. The Lancaster bedroom is my favorite. Even the stag's head seems just right.

    ReplyDelete
  2. martha.volpe@comcast.net9:36 AM

    Speaking of English interiors, (although not quite on topic),
    I am trying to locate the name of the chintz that was used in the country house in the movie, Scoop.
    If anyone has an idea it would be greatly appreciated. Gorgeous red geraniums were on the fabric!

    Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous10:20 AM

    Oh, I have died and gone to heaven seeing your entry. Have been to most of those marvelous places except for N. Lancaster's - Thanks for the happy memories.
    (Despite its over-the-top attitude, Brighton Pavillion is my spiritual home)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Patricia- I know; the mix is so striking, and it really worked!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Martha- I don't know, but I hope someone can help. I love geraniums, so I def. want to see this chintz!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anon- I think what I should have said is that despite the fact that it is over the top, Brighton is still an unbelievably beautiful place. When I visited it, I thought I had died and gone to heaven!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Jennifer -- I agree about the Brits use of color! And what a great painting of the Lancaster bedroom.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I can imagine waking up refreshed and ready to take on the world, sleeping in that Peacock Bedroom.

    It would be as if the sun were shining just for me!

    ... and, when the photo is enlarged, the carpet is luscious!

    Tristan

    ReplyDelete
  9. Jennifer, I thoroughly enjoyed this post. Fun to see these exotic rooms and see how bold and imaginative the British can be. I like their eclectic nature - they do what appeals to their eye and don't let the rules apply. I think there are always things to adopt for our own spaces, even if it's a small detail.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Courtney- Yes, they are not timid about color ;)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Tristan- I think sleeping in that bedroom would be like living in a fairy tale. And I agree about that carpet- gorgeous!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Anne- Exactly! With many of these lavish or over the top rooms, you can always find a bit of inspiration.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I just received John Fowler's book this weekend... what a great gift!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Meg- You will love it!!

    ReplyDelete
  15. The Brighton Pavilion is so utterly insanely wonderful. I spent a long afternoon there several years ago, mouth agape, my eyes on stalks. Tacky, perhaps, but sublimely so, sort of Tony Duquette-like, no? You must rent a DVD of the otherwise dreadful 1970 movie "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever" with Barbra Streisand. Part of it was filmed at the Pavilion, which looks absolutely dazzling ... and the costumes Streisand wears in her past-life experience as a Regency glamour girl are by Cecil Beaton.

    ReplyDelete
  16. See Streisand in Regency-style costume here in a room of the Royal Pavilion ... not bad, Mr Beaton, not bad at all ... http://farm1.static.flickr.com/159/427936710_436e18b693.jpg?v=0

    ReplyDelete
  17. Aesthete- You said it much better than I did. I spent an entire day there, and it was truly one of the most memorable days ever.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Wow, how wonderful would it have been to dine at such a place, that first image just blows me away!!

    ~Kate

    ReplyDelete
  19. Wow...what beautiful rooms. I especially love the rainbow sherbet colors of the Gothic bedroom. It exudes a kind of happiness somehow.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Woody Allen's film SCOOP used Haseley Court as the fictional country house of the Hugh Jackman character.
    There is a scene shot inside the Gothick Bedroom. I quite lost track of the dialogue, trying to take in the loveliness of that vast room. It would also appear that Mrs Lancaster's hall curtains remain intact~note the scene at the film's denoument.
    To answer Martha's question: there was a Colefax & Fowler chintz called Climbing Geranium, never available in the USA showrooms. However, the fabric shown in the film Scoop is most likely one known as Tree Poppy.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I love this mix style ! English have such a style ! great post

    ReplyDelete
  22. There are such wonderful details here. In the Haseley court bedroom I love the painted furniture. The Chippendale style chairs are smashing in cream. Lots a passamentrie here: the trim on the seat cushions, and on the bed (lit a Polonaise). The chandelier appears to be gilt tole, perhaps circa 1830...certainly the gothic revival period.Thanks Peak!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Such elegant rooms! Love the dining room! I want to have a party and wear a ball gown!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Fifi- A party would be great fun!

    ReplyDelete