The other day I had a conversation with Katy Lithgow, the National Trust’s head conservator, about the revival of the taste for Chinese decoration in European and American interiors in the 1920s and 1930s.
I mentioned the flamboyant interiors of Rose Cumming, the American decorator who combined Chinese wallpaper, lacquer and ceramics with up-to-the-minute shiny fabrics and jewel-like colours.
Katy told me that some of the rooms at Upton House were furnished in a similar style, in particular the bedroom and bathroom of Dorothy, Viscountess Bearsted (1882-1949).
These rooms, along with the rest of the house, were remodeled for Lord and Lady Bearsted by the architect Percy Morley Horder (1870-1944) in the late 1920s.
Lady Bearsted’s bedroom had a neo-Georgian chinoiserie theme, with a number of pieces of lacquer, japanned and faux bamboo furniture set against wall paneling painted a kind of celadon colour.
Her bathroom was even more dramatic, with aluminium-leaf walls, lacquer red pillars and – originally – a Chinese-style art deco pendant light fitting.
All this chimes with what Rose Cumming and other interior designers were doing in America at that time and shows what an international phenomenon the interbellum chinoiserie revival was.