Lutyens in the details

The Kitchen at Castle Drogo, Devon, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. The room was provided with a Soane-style top-lit pendentive dome, echoed by the circular beechwood preparation table below. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

The Kitchen at Castle Drogo, Devon, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. The room was provided with a Soane-style top-lit pendentive dome, echoed by the circular beechwood preparation table below. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

If you are looking for some winter-time reading matter you could do worse than get Elizabeth Wilhide’s book about the interiors of the great Edwardian architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Detail of the Lutyens-designed lift door at Castle Drogo. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Detail of the Lutyens-designed lift door at Castle Drogo. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

It zooms in on the architectural and decorative details Lutyens excelled in.

Brass taps mounted on a teak sink, next to a granite window surround, in the Butler's Pantry at Castle Drogo. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

Brass taps mounted on a teak sink, next to a granite window surround, in the Butler’s Pantry at Castle Drogo. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

As with the buildings of Sir John Soane, you get a palpable sense of Lutyens’s enjoyment in solving the puzzles of volume, light and flow. The visual puns, references and juxtapositions draw you into the architectural game and invite you into Lutyens’s mind.

The Butler's Pantry at Castle Drogo, with its Lutyens-designed fittings. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

The Butler’s Pantry at Castle Drogo, with its Lutyens-designed fittings. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

Some elements of his buildings are just plain beautiful, as when he foregrounds interesting materials and contrasts.

Detail of a granite door frame on the Main Stairs at Castle Drogo. ©National Trust

Detail of a granite door frame on the Main Stairs at Castle Drogo. ©National Trust

In the introduction to the book Candia Lutyens, the architect’s granddaughter, mentions how unpopular Lutyens was in the middle of the twentieth century, as his eclectic and referential style was out of synch with the purity of high modernism.

The main stairs at Castle Drogo. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

The main stairs at Castle Drogo. ©National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

I can still remember having a slightly dubious reaction to Lutyens’s work when first encountering it, being then an earnest young devotee of modern art. His work seemed almost too beautiful, too harmonious.

One of the shallow domes in the ceiling of the Main Staircase at Castle Drogo. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

One of the shallow domes in the ceiling of the Main Staircase at Castle Drogo. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

But now that modernism is increasingly recognised as being just another historical style rather than the end of history we are in a better position to appreciate Lutyens’s intelligent historicism.

And I have just learned that, by complete coincidence, Adrian Colston has also just featured the interiors and exteriors of Lutyens-designed Castle Drogo on his Dartmoor blog, with his own fascinating photographs.

6 Responses to “Lutyens in the details”

  1. deana Says:

    I doubt there are many who have seen that Castle Drogo kitchen (and that brilliant round table) who haven’t felt a great admiration for Lutyens craftsmanship and design. It’s simply great. Thanks for reminding us.

  2. Susan Walter Says:

    The other thing he played with was acoustics. Stand under one of those shallow domes and you will see what I mean. Quite disconcerting.

  3. Sandra Jonas Says:

    Absolutely exquisite!! I want to live in that butler’s pantry.

    Thank you for your wonderful posts throughout the year. I wish you the happiest of Christmases.

  4. Mark D. Ruffner Says:

    I have a great appreciation for the designs of Sir John Soane, and it’s a treat to see Soane’s influence on Lutyens. Indeed, they were both masters of volume and light.

  5. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Deana, yes and I like how Lutyens is combining castle architecture, Soane and Edwardian baroque there all at the same time.

    Susan, I wonder whether those sound effects were intentional – they sometimes aren’t :)

    Sandra, Xmas wishes to you too – I think you will be dreaming of an Edwardian oak Christmas :)

    Mark, apparently the glazed rotundo of the kitchen at Drogo was inspired by one of Soen’s top-lit spaces at the Bank of England. And Lutyens, like Soane, sometimes used mirrors in unusual ways to amplify space and light.

  6. Andrew Sheldon Says:

    The juxtaposition of dressed stone and white rendering in the butler’s pantry is reminiscent of the inside of Guildford Cathedral. Similar age, design-wise. Happy Christmas!

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