Soane lives on

Toby Worthington's library. ©Toby Worthington

The idiosyncratic Regency architect Sir John Soane continues to inspire. Toby Worthington, who has occasionally contributed comments to this blog, has allowed me to show these images of his own library. He created it out of an enclosed porch at his mid-nineteenth-century Gothick cottage in upstate New York.

The Book Room at Wimpole Hall. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Toby has combined various Soane motifs in this small space, some from Soane’s own house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, some from Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire.

©Toby Worthington

The elliptical arch is an echo of the arches in the Wimpole Book Room.

The chimneypiece, also by Soane, in the Book Room at Wimpole. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The Pompeian red and the use of convex mirrors are further Soane touches, much in evidence in the Lincoln’s Inn Fields house.  

©Toby Worthington

Toby achieved the typically Soaneian bead mouldings by using small wooden balls which were individually glued into place.

Plunge bath at Wimpole designed by Soane. ©NTPL

Now as for Toby’s next project, how about a version of Soane’s smart and compact Wimpole plunge bath?

13 Responses to “Soane lives on”

  1. columnist Says:

    Oooh..how lovely to see Mr Worthington’s work. And strangely just this afternoon I was trying to persuade three picture framers to make me a round frame for a convex mirror. Alas none were obliging. I shall have to acquire abroad. Gorgeous work TW, not surprisingly.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    If you happen to be in the UK at the moment, you might try The Looking Glass of Bath – I seem to remember seeing a circular mirror frame in their shop.

  3. Toby Worthington Says:

    Emile, how positively uncanny, that reference to Soane’s plunge bath at Wimpole.
    Not a day goes by that I don’t gaze at images of that room and begin to
    think up ways to plagiarize it.

  4. home before dark Says:

    When Mr. Worthington showed me pictures of his library he told me he had “shamelessly” stolen ideas from Sir John Soane. I think Sir Soane would be impressed by Mr. Wothington’s skill to turn a porch into this beauty…down to the fact that that faux books had to be used on one side to give the room proper symmetry. Mr. Worthington sighed that this room was done when he was at the peak of his game. I do think he does protest too much. His game continues. To have an eye for beauty that exceeds one’s budget, sometimes begats genius.

  5. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Toby – Well there you are – so we can look forward to a Soaneian jacuzzi or wet room designed by you :) And Soane himself would have approved: he was always using the latest technologies and updating people’s services.

    HBD – And creating beauty with limited means is entirely in the Soaneian tradition: he always came in within budget, and was good at saving money wherever possible.

  6. Rosie West Says:

    TW always wears his learning lightly and here he has achieved an easygoing and delicious synthesis of Soane and Mr Worthington – with terrific ingenuity. And you, Emile, have made it all the more accessible by this great post.

    I wonder if, in an era of home pools and spas, the particular novelty and surprise of the original plunge bath could ever be recreated? The pool is achingly wonderful, almost mysterious in its tight enclosure and that descent down beautiful wooden stairs. One can only marvel at its refreshing properties after a somewhat fetid atmosphere of unwashed bodies and stale fabric.

  7. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thank you Rosie, and now we have all these interesting comments extending the conversation :)

    Soane fitted the plunge bath into an awkward spot, which accounts for the economy of space you noticed. It was fed from the Castello d’Aqua mentioned above.

    And Soane also showed his ingenuity (and economy) in the paintwork: the plaster walls were painted in imitation of masonry, the stone shelf around the bath was painted to resemble wooden boards and the softwood handrail is painted to look like mahogany.

  8. CherryPie Says:

    That is an amazing library, I could spend many hours in there :-)

  9. The Devoted Classicist Says:

    That luminous red on the walls is indeed very Soanian. And I love the light and shadow on all those little spheres. I am a big fan of Soane so I enjoyed these photos of both “original” and “inspired by”.

  10. Hels Says:

    Borrowing motifs from Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire would have been a pleasure. The book room that you showed, for example, was gorgeous.

    But borrowing from Soane’s own house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields in London would have been a bigger problem. It is now so crowded, even a careful architect would find it difficult to analyse the small details. Was his home as crowded as that, before it became a house museum?

  11. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    In TW’s own words:
    “It [i.e. his Soaneian library] was the direct response to an experience, having just returned from another long visit to the Soane Museum which in those far off days allowed photography and the taking of notes and sketches. Sir Peter Thornton [the Soane's then Director] gave me a funny look as he sailed past, but I was on a mission!”

    And yes Soane’s house was more or less as crowded in his lifetime as it is now. It was his architectural office as well as his home and he had a number of pupils and assistants working for him. And of course he was always collecting casts and models and paintings and curios – hence the ‘fold-out’ walls in one room that have pictures hanging on both the front and the back. Various exciting projects are currently underway there to reinstate more of the original features which were lost in the nineteenth-century museumification of the house.

  12. columnist Says:

    Thanks Emile. I’m not in England presently, but I shall explore via the web and other communication. There was one here for sale, but I dithered, and it has gone.

    Regarding the Soane museum, I found it wasn’t at all busy when I went a couple or three years ago. But perhaps I was just lucky with my timing. Usually during summer and when it’s sunny people are less interested in indoor things.

  13. gaye tapp Says:

    I would love to see more of the space, very tantalizing to just show us one wall. The alcove is charming and like Soane every space is made to be used. I like the small tables to either side of the desk.

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