Standen

What goes on behind the scenes at Standen House, an Arts & Crafts family home


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Focus on – the drawing room

My favourite room (along with all my other favourite rooms…)!

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The drawing room (before the Vine Hanging was moved!) (NT)

The drawing room is one of the biggest rooms of the house and one you would only see as a guest of the Beales’ if you were a friend rather than a social acquaintance.

Many servants wouldn’t see any of the principle rooms of the house, only the housemaid who was responsible for clearing the grate and laying the fire and making sure the room was clean and dusted. If you were the kitchen maid, for instance, you wouldn’t have seen any of the family rooms.

As with all our rooms the drawing room is a combination of Beale family items and later additions, mostly from Arthur and Helen Grogan, the first custodians who brought their Arts and Crafts collection to Standen to furnish it.

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An old photo of the drawing room (NT)

The current layout of the drawing room was inspired by this historic photo. You can see it shows a curtain at the end of the sofa to create a cosy nook. We also know that Mrs Beale’s chair and light were always in this spot, with her workbag (which is a modern creation!) hanging from it.

My favourite things in this room include the Vine Hanging, which was embroidered by Mrs Beale – unsurprisingly taking her around 6 years; the De Morgan bowl which was a 25th wedding anniversary present to the Beales from their children – which also inspired the Grogans to collect more De Morgan pieces for the house; and the magnificent Morris & Co. Merton Abbey Mills carpet. The latter you can appreciate even more now thanks to our Eyemat.

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Happy New Year! To-morrow is another day…

Happy New Year! We hope you’ve all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year. It’s probably been our best Christmas ever, with over 7000 visitors coming over the two weeks either side of the big day.

We’re now in 2017 and I thought that an embroidered fire screen that we have upstairs in the house would be appropriate for the first blog post of the year.

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May Morris fire screen c. National Trust/Jane Mucklow

It was embroidered by May Morris who was the second daughter of William and Jane Morris. She was born in 1862 at Red House in Bexleyheath and learnt to embroider from her mother Jane and aunt Bessie Burden.

She studied embroidery at the precursor of the Royal College of Art, the National Art Training School. Unusually for the time she took part in her father’s business with his encouragement and ran the Morris & Co. embroidery department, starting when she was only 23.

If you wanted, you could buy embroidery kits from Morris & Co.,  with the pattern printed on a linen ground and silks provided to embroider it yourself. The V&A even have a half finished kit in their collection.

She combined Jane and Bessie’s skill for embroidery with her father’s design abilities, producing beautiful embroideries and designs. Later May was involved with the Royal School of Art Needlework – now the Royal School of Needlework.

Best wishes for 2017 and hope to see you here soon!


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Twilight Christmas

For the first time this year we are opening the downstairs of the house into the evening just before Christmas.

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The staircase hall

It’s an opportunity to see the house in the dark, with the electric lights just as the Beale family would have known it, along with all our cheerful seasonal decorations.

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We try to get the hall fire lit!

We’re open into the twilight tonight and tomorrow if you’ve not yet been! Our very own Standen Choir will also be singing.

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Mrs Beale getting into the festive spirit


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Christmas 2016

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The cottage

We’re well into Christmas at Standen, so if you haven’t already been to visit us here are a few photos to whet your appetite!

Don’t forget we have some wonderful tapestries and knitting by Kaffe Fassett around the house, and he also designed our Winter Tree in the courtyard.

You can also see we’ve been yarnbombing round the place – all crocheted by our volunteers.

And finally, just because it is Christmas doesn’t mean we are letting our standards drop…

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Sarah dusting the turkey

 


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From the search terms – William Morris Wallpaper

It seemed like a fun idea to have a look at the search terms through which people come to our house blog. Today’s was what William Morris is famous for – his wallpaper.

And, as you probably know, we at Standen are also known for having lots of examples of Morris & Co wallpapers. Interestingly, some of the most famous Morris & Co. papers weren’t designed by Morris at all, even though they tend to get called William Morris designs.

Here is an idiosyncratic and completely biased round up of some of my favourites.

Fruit (sometimes known as Pomegranate)

This is in the Billiard Room alcove, which was created from a corridor which originally led from the Hall to the Gentlemen’s Lavatories. It has lemons, olive branches and pomegranates in it. Produced in 1864, it is one of Morris’s earliest and most popular designs.

The wallpaper designs were carved onto pearwood blocks to print by hand – each colour needing a different block. Sanderson now own many of the Morris printing blocks.

Standen © National Trust / Jane Mucklow

It’s listed as Pomegranate on our collections website

Trellis

The first paper William Morris designed – except he couldn’t manage the birds so Philip Webb, the architect of Standen, stepped in to draw them. Morris was so annoyed by his inability to draw the birds he practiced and practiced until he could.

My own favourite story about this is from May Morris, William’s youngest daughter. She remembered having Trellis on her bedroom walls as a child, and being thoroughly frightened by one of the birds who looked at her with a gimlet eye.

We have Trellis in a number of places in the house, but perhaps the most interesting is in the Morning Room and Dog Leg Corridors – there are three different types of paper here; the original handblock printed, 1970s roller printed and 2015 digital printed.

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He does look pretty sinister if you ask me

Mallow

This paper is unusual because it was designed by a woman, Kate Faulkner. It used to hang in the Croxley bedroom where the green version of Poppy is now.

We  also uncovered a patch of it on the back stairs and, with the generous assistance of Morris & Co., are going to reinstate the paper up to the bottom of the water tower stairs. Find out more about the work here.

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The remains of Mallow on the back stairs

Kate Faulkner was sister of Charles Faulkner, one of the original members of “The Firm” as Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. was referred to by the partners. She was employed as an artist and designer and designed other wallpapers, tiles and pottery. She also decorated other things like a piano in gold and silver gesso for the shipping magnate Mr. A. Ionides, neighbour of the Beales in Holland Park.

Golden Lily

A really famous William Morris pattern, but actually designed by J.H. Dearle, Morris & Co.’s chief designer from the 1890s.

Interestingly Dearle started as a shop assistant and, after Morris recognised his ability as a draftsman, went on to become a design apprentice.He eventually became Art Director after Morris’s death in 1896. You can see it on the Morning Room sofa – lots of visitors remember it from Sanderson’s 1970s reprints!

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Loose covers on the Morning Room settee

Which of our papers is your favourite?

 


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Floors and what we do about them…

As you might have guessed, floors are the hardest working parts of our house. Last year we had over 120,000 visitors which is an awful lot of feet.

We  have carpets and rugs that we can’t let you walk on directly because they are fragile or precious. We protect them using druggets, but these wear out too.

The huge Morris & Co. carpet in the Drawing Room is one of our most important carpets. Designed by J.H. Dearle, Morris & Co.’s chief designer, and made at the Merton Abbey Mills, it is a spectacular carpet and in very good condition for its age.

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The Drawing Room carpet when we cleared the room for decorating

 

Before we put down the old drugget the carpet was rolled up and visitors walked on the wooden floor which felt a bit odd – a bit like looking at the room as if it was a picture, rather than actually being in it.

But the blue drugget was  6 years old and showing definite signs of age.  It had been an improvement but it needed replacing. Could we make the room look even better?

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The old blue drugget

Ben, our house manager, was very keen to get an Eyemat because we thought it would improve how the room looks. An Eyemat is a very detailed set of digital photographs printed on mats and stitched together to recreate the floor underneath.

So what you are walking on is exactly what is underneath the protective flooring – if you don’t look too closely you might think that you are walking on the carpet itself.

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The image used to print the Eyemat

After many samples were printed and compared with the original carpet to get a good colour match, last Wednesday Eyemat came to fit it and soon after we could walk on it!

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Fitting the Eyemat

This was only made possible by the funds from our second hand bookshop, so thank you very much to everyone who donated or bought books here. We hope you like the change!

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Can you spot the join?


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Endearing Freaks? Exhibition set up!

We’ve been getting exciting crates and boxes delivered over the past month and this has been the week to open them all.

Yes, it’s exhibition set up time again.

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Inspecting the objects before they go on display

We’ve been unpacking crates, condition checking objects for display, proof reading interpretation panels, talking to our designer and (my favourite!) arranging objects in the display cases.

 

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A spoon-warmer being cleaned

The exhibition is about The Martin Brothers Pottery, who were four brothers who ran a pottery in London in the late 1800s. They were unusual because they were from a working class background but designed as well as made their objects. They were the embodiment of the Arts & Crafts ideal of the workman being involved in every stage of creating their pieces.

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Ben and Vicky posing for the purposes of social media

The inspiration for this exhibition came from two pieces that we hold in our collection which are examples of their later work. Our House Manager got interested in the brothers and was intrigued and charmed by the most famous of the Martinware – the so called Wally Birds and the wonderfully grotesque spoon-warmers.

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A sneaky peek of one of the cases

We’ve also put out our exhibition themed merchandise in the shop – bags, mugs, magnets and notebooks. The House Manager is already planning to use them all for Christmas presents this year…

Come along on Monday and see the finished exhibition!