“The English country house is a living work of art, filled with history, beauty, and elegance”
– David Hicks
I grew up in a seventeenth-century house in Gloucestershire whose interiors and gardens were the epitome of English Country House Taste. My father is, unsurprisingly, an avid collector. Finishing school, he set off in his Mini to travel round Europe, but his first stop was the great houses of England – such as Chatsworth, Burghley, Badminton and Alnwick – and he wholeheartedly loves the aesthetic of these houses. The English Country House style is personified by an elegance created by juxtaposing furniture, textiles and artwork from both different periods and different countries and doing so in such a way that they would look out of place anywhere else. This style that had originated in these English stately homes, was not restricted to them. Far from it, it was taken up by wider society, including my father, who donned our walls with an eclectic mix of artworks; an etching by Lucian Freud competing for attention with an oil sketch by Lord Leighton.
Tastes and fashions change and over the last thirty years this look has been deemed cluttered and old fashioned, and we have seen a move towards a new aesthetic of uniform, monochrome, minimalist interiors. People removed layers until they created rooms that spoke of the owner’s simplicity and control over their environment. But with time fashions change again.
An interior by Octavia Dickinson featuring her new fabric ‘Albie’.
In a world where everything is becoming more alike, where algorithms are predicting our next move and telling us how to think, displaying individuality and creating autonomy through our homes has once again become desirable. This revised English Country House style is not about imitating the past but invigorating the old with the new. Using our interiors to reflect our personality and a desire for sustainability, individuality, and quality.
Looking around this exhibition, I am drawn to the elegant and the unusual. Rex Whistler’s portrait of Ivor Guest, Sargent’s extraordinary double portrait of the Burckhardt Ladies, and the visually alluring creations of Lawrence and Reynolds. I firmly believe an appreciation for the unique character of English Country House Taste is back.