Decoration in dreamland

I’ve just been doing a bit of reading. I’ve been asked to design a house by the sea, in a remarkable location, and for various reasons we’re looking at John Nash and the Picturesque. This morning I’ve been looking at J B Papworth’s 1818 Rural Residences which conveniently has been scanned and placed online by some crazy organisation called the Internet Archive which itself gets slightly mind-blowing if you spend too much time browsing there.

Beautiful, all the way down to the marbled end papers faithfully scanned.  The internet is a strange place isn’t it? I suspect I’m probably the only person in the world, literally, downloading this link this morning.

I’ve got a copy of Papworth in the office but I’ve never actually read it, just looked at the pictures. Which is how I suspect we all read books really (although one or two strange people claim to have actually been reading my book, so you never know).

Well, this morning, with my cup of tea, I began to look at Papworth in a bit more detail and read this extraordinary description of a ‘A Cottage Orne Designed for the Neighbourhood of the Lakes’ (if you want to see some lakeland scenery to get in the mood, look here). “The plan of this rural building”, we learn “was arranged for the accommodation of two ladies, whose establishment consists of three female servants, and a gardener, his residence being at a small distance from the cottage”. (I can’t help hoping that the gardener was handsome, and young).

Anyway, listen to the description of these rooms. Insane, and simultaneously romantic and beautiful, yet not without a little touch of David Hicks in there?  Jennifer Boles, at The Peak of Chic, this one is surely for you!

The parlour, the music-room and the lobby are very simply and neatly decorated by compartments coloured in tints resembling an autumnal leaf, the yellow-green of which, forms the pannels, and its mellower and pinky hues compose a very narrow border and stile that surround them. The draperies are of buff chintz in which sage-green leaves, and small pink and blue-and-white flowers prevail ; the furniture is cane-coloured. Upright flower stands of basket-work are placed in each angle of the room, and the verandah is constantly dressed with plants of the choicest scents and colours.

The drawing-room is fancifully ornamented with paper in imitation of bamboo and basket-work, in the colour of cane, upon a sky-blue ground ; each side is divided into compartments by pilasters, which support a sort of roofing and transverse bamboo rods, to which seem to be suspended the most exquisite works of the Chinese pencil : these are the best that have appeared in this country, and consist of views of their apartments, representations of the costume of the people, and of the natural productions of China. A very able artist has further decorated this room, by painting a variety of Oriental plants, as supported by the pilasters, &c. about which they entwine, and arriving at the ceiling, they terminate, after spreading a short distance upon it.

The furniture and draperies are the same as in the parlour.

The book-room is coloured a tea-green which is relieved by blossom colour and brown.

The chambers are papered with a small and simple trellis pattern, and the draperies white, with a mixture of lavender colour and buff.

In the whole of this cottage there is no portion of gilding; the glasses are let into the walls and covered by the paper decorations; and even the book-bindings are unornamented by gold the lettering being merely stamped upon them.

It is remarkable to me how a whole world of Wordsworth and the Regency life can be painted in a few simple sentences. Who does not want a tea-green book room, relieved by blossom colour and brown?


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