Lady Londonderry’s colours

The Black and White Hall at Mount Stewart ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Black and White Hall at Mount Stewart ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

As I was visiting Mount Stewart last week, I was struck by the distinctive colours used throughout the house.

Detail of a japanned cabinet at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Detail of a japanned cabinet at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

I was told this is the result of redecoration carried out by Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry (1878-1959), during the last ten years of her life following the death of her husband, the 7th Marquess.

The Drawing Room at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Drawing Room at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

It seems that, having already revived and embellished the garden, she could now express her own taste inside as well.

Detail of the japanning on a concertina door between the Stone Hall and the Music Room at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Detail of the japanning on a concertina door between the Stone Hall and the Music Room at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Some may well be shocked by these bold colours, but I find them rather appealing. They help to make the house feel simultaneously grand – in an ‘I don’t care what anyone thinks’ sort of way – and jolly.

The Dining Room at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The Dining Room at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Lady Londonderry also clearly loved textiles, lacquer and japanning, and other objects with interesting textures and shapes – a taste perhaps also reflected in the variety of plants she introduced to the garden.

The Rome Bedroom at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/Peter Aprahamian

The Rome Bedroom at Mount Stewart. ©National Trust Images/Peter Aprahamian

Some of these colours and textures in the house have inevitably faded somewhat over time, and it is one of the aims of the current conservation project to bring back more of Lady Londonderry’s original sense of style.

14 Responses to “Lady Londonderry’s colours”

  1. Susan Walter Says:

    Hmmm, well it’s more interesting that Clemmie Churchill’s effort at Chartwell — bolder and less fussy and bourgeois. I suspect it looks better in real life than in photos. Please tell me that the dining room chairs are not her personal needlepoint project though…

    Are the pictures of birds on the screen in the Rome Bedroom Audubon?

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    I can see you are slightly equivocal:) I don’t know who embroidered the dining room chairs, but they have a nice historical resonance since they were used at the Congress of Vienna, when Europe was being rearranged by the great powers following the Napoleonic era. Lord Castlereagh who represented Britain at the conference, later became the 2nd Marquess of Londonderry.

  3. style court Says:

    The Rome bedroom almost foreshadows David Hicks :)

    Grand old English houses can get away with more eccentric colors. The combination of turquoise-y blue with crushed berry pinks in the hall actually looks really luscious, especially contrasted with the patterned floor and faded by time.

  4. robert Says:

    Hello Emile, I was interested in the answer to Susan Walters’ question about the prints on the screen, and perhaps more details about the screen itself. Are there details you might be able to share about the baldachin over the bed? Thank you. Robert

  5. Gésbi Says:

    This certainly isn’t a staid interior as a result of being ‘colorized’. Really, the colors reflect the palette of the 50s, proving the elderly Marchioness to have been very up to date. How beautiful to live out her last years in a final bloom of color.

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Courtney, interestingly, David Hicks seems to have done an interior for (I think) the 8th Marquess and his wife: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/209769295113437043/ So it is possible he actually visited Mount Stewart or was aware of the 7th Marchioness’s taste.

    Robert, our database doesn’t mention the history of that bed (http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1220671), although it looks rather Italian, doesn’t it – it may have been picked up by Lady Londonderry on her travels. But I will ask the colleagues at Mount Stewart if anything more is known about it.

    Gésbi, yes it is a nice final flourish, isn’t it?

  7. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Oh and the screen has lithographs of tropical birds by Edward Lear and John Gould: http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1220665

  8. Andrew Says:

    I quite like the hall and bedroom, but yikes – the yellow and purple in the dining room!

    Thankfully Lady Londonderry seems to have eschewed excessive soft furnishings. How are the windows treated?

    Here is the screen on in the NT collections database – http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1220665

    Lithographs of tropical birds by Edward Lear and John Gould, apparently. Before Lear became better known as the nonsense poet. See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/9681682/Edward-Lear-not-just-a-pretty-poet.html

  9. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Andrew, the curtains have fairly sober straight pelmets, but you will be interested to hear that they are in red silk damask, so very much adding to the rich ‘custard and berry compote’ colour scheme :)

    Thanks very much for those links – yes I was surprised to learn that Lear was a ‘serious’ artist as well as a proto-surrealist versifier!

  10. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Frances Bailey, the curator advising on Mount Stewart, has just supplied me with these details about the bed: it was made up from different existing elements by Canon Stephens, who was a great friend of Lady Londonderry and who used to go antique-hunting with her. It was originally at Londonderry House, the family’s residence on Park Lane in London, which was sold in 1962 and then demolished. The painted decoration on the bed was done by the Williamson firm, who also did some of the japanning at Mount Stewart (including the door panel I show above) and about whom we would like to find out more.

    I was saying to Frances recently that some of the rooms at Mount Stewart are quite reminiscent of the styles of some of the ‘great lady decorators’ of the interwar years, such as Rose Cumming, Dorothy Draper and Ruby Ross Wood (http://bit.ly/NtP0om). Perhaps Lady L. will one day be added in that pantheon :)

  11. Toby Worthington Says:

    Fascinating, and instructive to see the way in which Lady Londonderry ignored the nearly ubiquitous taste for washed out eau de nil walls and “genteel” furnishings of the period in which she did up her rooms. It’s what one of my architect friends recently referred to as The F**k You Factor.
    And you are onto something with your Rose Cumming allusion.

  12. Mark D. Ruffner Says:

    Colors do indeed fade, and I know that the conservators at Colonial Williamsburg have discovered that our ancestors used much more intense color than we initially thought. I think Lady Londonderry was probably actually reaching back to the past!

  13. The Devoted Classicist Says:

    I am so glad to see the advertisement gone from the end of your otherwise perfect blog.

  14. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Toby, what an interesting way to describe that attitude :)

    Mark, yes it would be interesting to research where that taste came from – neo-Regency, neo-baroque?

    Classicist, yes I am sorry about those ads, I am looking into how I can get rid of them permanently.

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