Archives for category: Chinoiserie

When my dad was a little boy, he lived in and around a lot of stately homes because his parents were in the staff of various country gentry. He had a view of what post-war life was like in these big houses, from the icicles formed on the inside of his enormous billiard room bedroom window, to sitting on his dad’s lap and steering the family Daimler aged just four. His mum, who we called Nanny, told us of the time that “Mr Sanderson himself” came to paint the wallpaper. A team of craftsmen arrived with their ladders and created a unique design, according to the wishes of the lady of the house. The Sanderson company still exist, of course, though I am not sure they still offer an insitu painting and gilding service for their more affluent clients.

I found some beautiful examples of Edwardian era wallpaper when we were at Lanhydrock – not hand painted, but certainly rich and luxurious — and surprisingly modern.

Geometric design seems fresh despite its vintage

Geometric design seems fresh despite its vintage

The gentleman's bathroom presented in the latest styles

The gentleman’s bathroom presented in the latest styles

The lady's chamber with more delicate colours

The lady’s chamber with more delicate colours

Not only pattern but texture...

Not only pattern but texture…

Touchy feely: paper with a soft side

Touchy feely: paper with a soft side

Up close and strokable

Up close and strokable

I remember homes when I was younger featuring that soft damask wallpaper, and although for a few years any sort of deviation from smooth and flat was desperately un-modern,  in various ways it is beginning to grow in popularity again. Words like Anaglypta, wood chip and damask still evoke plenty of bad taste memories for some, but time marches on and those sartorial nightmares fade. The future of wall coverings may well be 3D.

You can still get hand-painted wallpaper today: stunning works of art for customers with deep pockets. If that is your situation, take a look at the opulent de Gournay or Griffin and Wong for some silk based Chinoiserie. Cole and Son offer hand printed papers, where the old fashioned block printing is done painstakingly by talented craftsmen.

But should you want the personal touch without having to spend extreme amounts of money, there is another way. Printing has changed hugely in the past few decades: now the computer takes the strain of image and ink proportions and with a little technical help you can pretty much specify any pattern or picture for your space. There are plenty of companies out there who will customise your walls with a mural. I have used Wall Factor, who have a link with the huge photo library Shutterstock, so that you can pick an image, and arrange to have it printed on wallpaper at exactly the right proportions for your wall.

World map mural in words available through Wall Factor

World map mural in words available through Wall Factor

We actually used the above design in a colour version for Jonas’s room. It is such a clever image, and perfect for a child’s bedroom as it’s fun but not childish, so will grow with him. I’ll show you one day when I give you the full room tour.

Next time we’ll be making a final round-up of my favourite designs. As a teaser, I can tell you that Scion features heavily….

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There comes a time, and I’m not sure exactly at which point it is, when the suggestion of taking A Nice Walk or making a visit to a historical site becomes a really good idea, rather than a really annoying imposition on your play life. Possibly it’s when you are the suggester rather than the suggestee of the activity, and you are settling comfortably into at least your fourth decade.

I remember going to National Trust properties when I was little. I remember the untrodden lawns, the beautifully manicured gardens, and the grey-haired and sensibly-shod visitors wandering in them, the lavender-infused shop selling mainly fudge, the dangled possibility of an ice cream at the end, and most certainly a picnic with Bovril sandwiches. There were also woody wild areas to explore and the familiar unusual plants to rediscover just around the corner… maybe even a ‘climbing tree’.

Memories! We went here/ Watersmeet river gorge from the National Trust

Memories! We went here/ Watersmeet river gorge from the National Trust

Often we eschewed the house visit for fear of potential toddler malfunction, or, when we were older, in deference to the encroaching teenage boredom threshold. Most of the dingy exhibits were sequestered out of reach behind a rope barrier (and how tempting that rope was for us younger visitors, for swinging on or deftly looping around a sibling’s neck) and presided over by a stately and disapproving figure in the corner, who seemed to have a lot in common with Sam the Eagle from the Muppets.

The culture police have changed at the National Trust over the years/Sam the Eagle generally disapproves

The NT culture police have mellowed over the years/Sam the Eagle generally disapproves

In many ways, the National Trust has changed, and all to the good. Children are made so welcome now in the houses, and interaction with the objects in them is now actively encouraged. Where items need to be preserved, explanatory notes are placed next to them, showing the reasons for the Do Not Touch notice. The once frosty security guards have been replaced by a cosy army of grandparents, eager to chat and inspire.

So as parents, we didn’t baulk at the concept of taking our kids and another family into Lanhydrock House in Cornwall one rainy half term day. The children had a fantastic time looking for Halloween pumpkins but also following an easy-to-read guide as we toured the rooms, answering quizzes and imagining themselves as little lords and ladies from a bygone age.

But I didn’t bring you here only to muse upon middle-class family pursuits. I mentioned in my previous post that I found some treasure here. As our party swarmed ahead, I lingered in the kitchen, captivated by their collection of ‘Victorian mod cons’ and stylish work spaces. But mostly because these guys clearly had a big copper trend going on then too.

Trays to turreens: it's all made of copper

Trays to turreens: it’s all made of copper

copper kitchen lanhydrock

I could work with this. An inspiring kitchen

How many fry-ups? Pans hang on the wall.

How many fry-ups? Pans hang on the wall.

The willow pattern crockery is the height of Chinoiserie chic

The willow pattern crockery is the height of Chinese-style chic

Statement piece/ jelly mould

Statement piece: grand mould

Mrs Beeton recommends a jelly. Copper moulds for all kinds of fine foods

Mrs Beeton recommends a jelly. Copper moulds for all kinds of fine foods

Solution to easy-clean kitchenware: have staff

Solution to easy-clean kitchenware: have staff

Shining examples/ serve it all up with dainty blue Royal Doulton and beaten copper.

Serve it up with dainty blue Royal Doulton and beaten copper

This kitchen, set out ready for action, made me realise how similar our aesthetic tastes are currently with those of the big houses a century ago. The copper, the chinoiserie, even the light pink shade on the walls as a pastel backdrop, are all elements we might include in our modern interiors.

I can’t pretend that all our boys leap up in eager anticipation every time we say we’re heading for a National Trust property. Sometimes it’s hard to tear themselves away from that six-hour game of Chelsea Monopoly, or the re-enactment of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. But by the time we’re there, and the valuable badge prizes are up for grabs, everyone is immersed, loving the challenge, learning without realising it, and continuing in the great family tradition. A copper-bottomed option for a good day out.

Inherent quality and beauty in interior design will always resurface, sometimes with new approaches and settings. The way we choose to spend and direct our time with family now draws on memories of that which was valuable in our own childhoods. What goes around comes around.

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