Friday, 12 February 2016

Georgian Panelling

You don’t really need Georgian panel to house the flannel, says Sam Taylor

Written by Sam Taylor
Even though King George IV died in 1830, in purely aesthetic terms, the ‘Georgian period’ still covers anything that was made up until 1837, so Rock House just sneaks in at 1835. Which does make me love it that little bit more, but also means the added responsibility any of us feel for historical houses. They usually come with the added weight of a protected listing; ours is Grade II , which technically only covers the outside, but which is often interpreted to include something as mundane as the toilet chain.

Like living in any period house, it is a balancing act between the desires of modern life (you really need light switches) against the fantasy of ‘keeping it real’ (in which case, no light switches). When Dennis Severs bought a dilapidated Georgian house in London’s Spitalfields in the 1970s, he did so with the intention of turning back the clock and living as a Huguenot silk merchant might have done – it was built in 1724 for these once social elite.

His house at 18 Folgate Street was an ambitious project, with each room stage-set to appear as if the occupants, the fictitious Mr Jervis and his family, had literally just upped and left, having been disturbed mid-meal by the appearance of the visitors who continue to pay for tours. And who could blame them?

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For Severs, the house, also his home until his death in 1999, was what he called a ‘still-life drama’. He wanted his visitors to feel as if they were stepping through the frame of an 18th-century painting and into a candlelit past. The rooms are richly decorated in the Georgian deep blood reds and dark greens that gave the illusion of warmth and highlight the shine of the family silver.

The rooms are also heavily panelled; deep wooden embellishments made possible by a still-thriving Colonial economy.

Rock House is none of these things, built some 100 years later and on much simpler lines. Therefore it came as a surprise to discover that Mark, our genial general builder, had decided to finish the bathroom by copying Dennis’s ornate floor-to-ceiling panelling. How much panel do you need to house a flannel, you may ask? The answer is not that much. Especially if it is in MDF.

Next week: Holiday homes



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