Are we guilty of décor neglect? Probably. A follower has reprimanded us for our lack of postings and it is true – our minds have been elsewhere. That is not to say that the pressing issues of décor haven’t been top of the list – but we’ve been doing other things – working, writing, travelling, gardening, relaxing and of course hunting out new décor items.
Yet I now realize there has been some neglect of the serious issues. Every morning as I travelled through the Studio, bleary-eyed (making my way to the coffee pot), I had been suffering certain disquiet. What was once the centerpiece of the whole house – our show off room – seemed to have lost its zing. Was it that, with the renovations now largely finished, the new spaces have taken attention away from the main event? Now that the party happens out in the Morning room and deck is the Studio simply now at the wrong end of town?
It took a while – a few coffees and a long Easter weekend (in which a big garden project was ruined by torrential rain) to take another look at the Studio. What had happened?
Essentially the Studio had become the initial resting place of newly acquired pieces, new paintings, new vases, new pieces of furniture and a collection of 1954 royal tour flags. Here paintings had been put up on any convenient nail, vases have been deposited en masse on tabletops and the neglected dining room table had become home to everything from unsorted mail to glasses awaiting rehoming in the armoire. This had resulted in the generally disorderly jumble that we only ever passed through – and nobody was paying much attention.
What took a while to sink in was that the whole room needed a do-over. This is not an invasive project – but simply a rehanging, a simplification and a rethink.
There was something of a question as to what the Studio is now used for. Initially – when we only occupied 1/3 of the house – we lived in this room – it was our house – now there are other spaces and the Studio basically becomes a large formal dining room and entertainment space.
Early on we thought a lot about making it feel like an Edwardian artist’s studio – that is with a strong Orientalizing feel – Japanese mirrors, Moroccan occasional tables, boxes of artist’s paint and an easel or two. Although we had essentially decided the look was unattainable – without it seeming as if the room was filled with faded tat – however some of these early directions still lingered
There had also been the Shabby Baronial approach. The term had been invented by the fabulous Claire Regnault – as a deeply masculine version of Shabby Chic that allowed us to do sprawling and comfortable but have the whole effect seem big and male. As part of this the mounted deer’s heads and the occasion flag still work and work well – but the wing chairs had gone off to their intended destination in the library and the big Joseph Gaut had gone off to have conservation work done on it. What was left simply no longer hung together.
One of the questions we had asked ourselves was does the Studio need new furniture – and the answer of course is yes. A good large-scale butler’s stand or open sideboard would look great where a smaller sideboard now stands and I for one am still not sure the dining room table is quite right. However these things take time and we needed to work with what we had.
We started in one corner – in a moment of guerilla action Peter had moved a contemporary artwork by Ian McMillan from its corner behind a door – to a more prominent position, displacing two Victorian embroideries but leaving a third hanging high above it. Climbing a ladder I brought down the remaining embroidery. From there we moved around the walls of the room – replacing a Japanese painted mirror with a plain colonial one – hanging a portrait – and then two Theo School panels – that were really propped up awaiting being placed in their specially made crate to go into storage (these are remnants from my last mid-century modern house). We moved around the room hanging pictures so there seemed a conversation between them and at each point we measured and hung paintings at exact heights and equal distances.
This precision and a strong sense of paring back was exactly what the room needed. Vases were disappeared, tablecloths removed, footstools exiled and at the end of the day we had achieved a certain big simple antebellum style that so suits this room and the Studio is back to being the show off room it always has been. What’s more we achieved this in good time for a formal dinner to commemorate the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic this Saturday.
Sometimes it is worth taking a second look at a room, forget silly notions of new wallpaper, carpet or light fittings and ask yourself if what is really needed is a simplification – a paring back to its essence – maybe a good re-hang and a cull of a few unnecessary objects – all of which remain to feature another day, ready to reflect a different mood.