Friday, July 12, 2013
Peter Coats at Albany
I wasn't familiar with Peter Coats until I recently saw a 1960s-era photo of his charming English country cottage. A little digging around on the internet turned up that he was once Gardening Editor of House & Garden (the British edition), an author of numerous gardening books plus two autobiographies, a garden designer, and a one-time paramour of Chips Channon. All of those roles combined make for one interesting character in the annals of design and gardening.
When I recently featured Coats's Essex country house drawing room on my blog, Luke Honey, antiquarian and blogger (see more about Luke in the post below), mentioned that Coats's set at Albany in London was once featured in an old House & Garden book by Robert Harling. I took a stab and purchased a copy of House & Garden Book of Interiors (by, yes, Harling and published in 1962), and sure enough, there were photos of Coats's city flat.
For those of you who are intrigued by Albany and its dwellers, you might be interested to know that Coats inhabited A1, which had once been the flat of Mr. William Stone. (The late Stone at one time owned almost half of Albany, if you can imagine.) Coats's set spanned three floors, with the hall, drawing room, study, and bath on the ground floor, the master bedroom and bathroom above that, and a dining room, kitchen, guest bedroom, and bathroom in the basement. All that said, though, the set was not terribly large. Only the drawing room was spacious.
From what I've read on the internet, Coats died in 1990 at age 80. Though it seems his achievements are little known here in the States (that's an assumption on my part), his legacy lives on in the books he penned, including Flowers in History, The Gardens of Buckingham Palace, and his two autobiographies, Of Generals and Gardens and Of Kings and Cabbages. They might well be worth looking into.
In the ground floor hall, both the walls and carpet were green, while the blue curtains were trimmed in yellow and black saddler's braid. The gilt wood chandelier was once located in William Pitt's study at Chatham House.
The largest room in the home, the drawing room was once part of Lord Melbourne's library. (It was Lord Melbourne who built Melbourne House, which, when it was later converted to flats, became known as Albany.)
The study, also on the ground floor, was more contemporary-looking in appearance. The walls, by the way, were raspberry red.
The basement floor dining room had an arched ceiling, a vestige of the room's former use as a cellarage. Coats had the walls and ceiling painted in faux marbre.
Coats hired artist Martin Newell to paint a trompe l'oeil classical doorway on the wall outside of the dining room window.