Curzon Street baroque


The upstairs corridor at Coleton Fishacre. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

Design writer Emily Evans Eerdmans recently gave a talk at the Royal Oak Foundation, the American friends of the National Trust, on the subject of English Art Deco. That prompts me to show a few images of Coleton Fishacre, in Devon, which is a fascinating Art Deco showcase.

Adding a few tassels, for that baroque touch. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Coleton Fishacre was built for Rupert D’Oyly Carte by Oswald Milne in 1923-6. Richard D’Oyly Carte had been the impresario behind the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan, and his son Rupert went on to to develop the family business empire, which also included the Savoy Hotel and Claridge’s in London.

The Library. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

Coleton Fishacre was acquired by the National Trust in 1982 as part of the Neptune Coastline Campaign, in order to safeguard this beautiful stretch of Devon coastline. The lush garden was immediately shown to the public, and more recently the house has also been opened up. 

Detail from a rug by Marion Dorn in the Saloon. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Much of the original furnishings had gone, however. When the contents of a historical house (even one as recent as Coleton) are missing, the National Trust has to take the decision as to whether to leave it as is, and just show it for the architecture and perhaps let the house, or to attempt a recreation. 

'Les Arums', a printed linen designed by Raoul Dufy in 1919 and used in Lady Dorothy's bedroom. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

In this case there were old photographs available to show what the rooms looked like in the twenties and thirties. National Trust curators have been acquiring similar pieces in order to restore the original look. 

The dining room. ©NTPL/Dennis Gilbert

This particular type of between-the-wars interior, in which antiques are mixed with modern pieces, is sometimes known as ‘Curzon Street baroque’, after the exclusive London street where such interiors were often seen.

11 Responses to “Curzon Street baroque”

  1. Janet Says:

    So few intact art deco interiors remain. Glad to hear this one is (at least partially) being restored. LOVE the Marion Dorn rug.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes the Marion Dorn rug is like a detail from a Klee, or something Suprematist, isn’t it? Rupert D’Oyly Carte also used her carpet designs at Claridge’s.

  3. style court Says:

    And it is always a treat to learn more about specific uses of the Dufy fabrics. Love the linen used in Lady Dorothy’s bedroom.

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Indeed. The fabric can be seen in a 1930s photograph of this room.

  5. littleaugury Says:

    the corridor lights alone are a treasure-these should definitely find a place in some company’s reproductions line. Maybe someone already has done it-I would love to know- pgt

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Aren’t they extraordinary? I love those self-consciously elegant tassles, too. “If in doubt, add a tassel!” they must have thought. I will find out if the lights are available as reproductions.

  7. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    The curator for Coleton Fishacre, Jeremy Pearson, has now told me that some of the ceiling lights are originals and some, where the originals had gone, are reproductions. The repros were relatively easy to construct and were made by a local carpenter and a glazier working together. Some of the reproduction tassels are actually made of wood, and those were carved by a cabinet maker. Some of the tassels (but not all) have the structural function of attaching the light fittings to the ceiling. They have not been licensed (and are not unique to Coleton), so you could go ahead and reproduce them yourself, should you want to.

  8. sam Says:

    Who is the Lady Dororthy mentioned in this article? Is it Lady Dorothy Mills (1889-1959)? Please let me know–

  9. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Sam, I don’t think I mentioned Lady Dorothy, Rupert D’Oyle Carte’s wife, but you obviously made the connection. However, this Lady Dorothy (1889-1977) was Lady Dorothy Milner Gathorne-Hardy, daughter of the 2nd Earl of Cranbrook.

  10. Tim Butcher Says:

    Emile – wonderful! Now what wallpaper would go with a house like this ….

  11. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    A Chinese-Deco one would look great, wouldn’t it, perhaps with some silvering for extra glamour 🙂

    I was leafing through a book on Syrie Maugham in the V&A bookshop the other day and I was very interested to see that she used antique Chinese wallpapers extensively in her Art Deco/Neo-Georgian/Curzon Street Baroque interiors.

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