Monday, June 08, 2009

Swiss Cottage

Isn't there something so intriguing and so very enchanting about follies? These architectural gems are such unique examples of fantasy, creativity, whimsy, and well, folly. I recently read about one that captured my attention: Swiss Cottage near Cahir, County Tipperary, Ireland. The structure is considered to be an ornamental cottage, and frankly I don't know what the difference is between an ornamental cottage and folly. Perhaps there isn't one.

Built around 1810 by Richard Butler, 1st Earl of Glengall, the cottage was used for entertaining guests, although some websites mention that it was used as a hunting and fishing lodge. (One book claims it was a romantic hideaway for Butler and his mistress. This cottage must have seen many different types of recreational pursuits.) The man responsible for the cottage's design is believed to be John Nash, one of the foremost architects of the Regency period.

What caught my eye was not the thatched roof, though it is charming. Rather, I'm taken with the trellis type ornamentation on the exterior. I can't tell if it's actual trellis, or if the design is painted. The scale of the decoration is quite large; it's very early 19th c. Dorothy Draper. This type of ornamentation would be a great way to perk up a garage, a potting shed, or a child's playhouse. Or, what about painting trellis on an exterior wall that adjoins a terrace or patio? Very chic indeed.

Sybil Connolly set this table outside of Swiss Cottage, a structure near and dear to her heart. She helped to raise funds for the cottage's refurbishment back in the 1980s. You also get a good view of the charming rustic woodwork.

The dining room of the cottage still has its original Dufour wallpaper, "Scenes from the Banks of the Bosphoros". Some believe that this paper is some of Dufour's earliest printed paper. I wish I could find a photograph of the entire dining room. I'm sure the rest of the paper is just as beautiful as this glimpse.

All of this reminds me of a present day take on trellis: a Dallas entryway designed by Michelle Nussbaumer. Trellis from a garden center was painted glossy black and was affixed to the entry's white walls.

(Images 2 and 3 courtesy of Tiffany Gourmet Cookbook. Nussbaumer photo from the Dallas Morning News, Terri Glanger photographer.)


  1. Absolutely delightful. I believe that a folly is constructed entirely for decoration, with no purpose except as an ornament. They are not used for housing. Since this was used as a hunting lodge or romantic getaway, it would be called a cottage as opposed to a folly. That is my understanding anyway.

  2. Jennifer, a folly is a structure incorporated into a ground's landscaping and generally isn't a place one can live, whereas a cottage - no matter if ornamtental - is meant to be inhabitated.

    Have you ever heard of Blaise Hamlet outside of Bristol? If not, I know you will love it. Built by John Nash, who had a hand in the Brighton Pavilion, for the retired workers on an estate in the early 19th century, it is extremely charming.

    There are some photos on flickr:

    and to learn more:

  3. With the Trellis and Chinoiserie wallpaper, I am definitely coming into my element--great layering and richness. I love Michelle Nassbaumer's design work.
    Have a great week!

  4. Anonymous11:29 AM

    Hello POC,
    Positively other worldly!
    That priceless trellis work, the vine garlands and rough timbers - SWOOOON! ! ! !
    An entire Swiss Village of 150 stone buildings and an arched bridge are hiden secretively in Newport RI - cleverly, in a tiny hollow of rolling landscape - the village is a "folly".
    Like your Swiss Cottage, common on great english baronial estates, this one in RI wasis considered quite rare in America - built for no practical purpose except to amuse the owner and guest - Another I would categorize as that is Mrs. Vanderbilts Chinese Tea House, again in Newport.

    Terrific post ! Alison (WI)

  5. Well, I don't know the exact definition of a Folly but I do know of several which were used as guest quarters...this one is remarkable.
    Thank you

  6. John Tackett3:27 PM

    In the 19th century, there was an architectural movement, promoted by A. J. Downing and others, to have inexpensive but picturesque, small, suburban and rural houses in a style they called the cottage orne (with an accent that I cannot add here). So that might be where your source came up with ornamental cottage term.

    There is a village called Rugby on the Cumberland Plateau in East Tennessee founded about 1880 by Thomas Hughes, author of TOM BROWN'S SCHOOLDAYS, that was built entirely of such delightful structures.

  7. Beth- Thank you for the clarification! Makes sense to me.

  8. Emily- No, I wasn't familiar with it, but thank you for the links!! LOVE it!

  9. Mary- I like Nussbaumer's work too. She's so talented.

  10. Alison- Are you serious?? I'm going to have to research that. Sounds fascinating!

  11. John- I wish I had consulted you before I wrote this post. To have spent as much time in TN as I have, I can't believe I haven't heard of Rugby. I need to research that one too.

  12. Jennifer -- appreciate the link to Michelle's project.

  13. What a absolutely great and original post! I loved it.

  14. Tt is indeed a very weird looking and different type of cottage build more than a hundred years ago.

    liked the interior better than the exteriors.