Standen

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


Leave a comment

An unexpected closed day

Last Monday, the 8th of February, was the day of Storm Imogen and for the first time ever we were closed due to wind! We did of course suffer badly in the 1987 storm, but that was back in the day when the property closed for long periods. Imogen was nowhere near as bad as that storm, luckily.

Storm Damage Root of Cedar Oct 1987

Standen in 1987

We have a number of criteria that we use to decide whether it is safe for us to open on a day like this. These look at wind speed, speed of the gusts, direction and what the rest of the weather is like (if it’s been very wet, for instance) as well as if there are leaves on the trees. So for us, like many other NT properties in the south and west, on Monday it was not safe for us to open to the public.

However, we were able to let staff come onto the site. The house team took advantage of being closed to clean a part of the house which is a little awkward to do when we are open – the Morning Room Corridor.

20160208_111951

The Garrett bookcase without books! You can just see the Rooke paintings above the bookcase here.

We would normally do this over a few days, but moving and cleaning the large Garrett bookcase involves us taking all of the books off the shelves and having to find somewhere to put them. We have a large pile of displaced books from the Morning Room after it was painted recently stashed under the billiard table already so we haven’t really got any space for more books. However, because we were closed we could put them all in the Business Room without getting in our visitors’ way! It also meant that we could pull the bookcase out and give it a really thorough clean behind.

20160208_111919

The books from the bookcase, carefully labelled so we know where to put them back…

We also gently dusted the frames of the lovely T.M. Rooke watercolours – Rooke was good friends with Philip Webb and Kelmscott House have a lovely painting of Caxtons, the cottage near Crawley that Webb retired to with the help of his friends.

Luckily we had very little damage from the storm and opened again the following day – with the deep clean in the Morning Room Corridor completed!

Time Passing

2 Comments

This week, I thought that I would bring you the blog in a slightly different format then normal – via a video. Earlier this year, the Larkspur bedroom and dressing room went through a little bit of a makeover and was repainted in Standen White (do not worry the wallpaper is still there!) In order for the rooms to be painted, all of the furniture, paintings, ceramics and fixtures had to be removed  in order to protect them. The video below is a time lapse video that was taken over the 4 days it took the house team to empty both rooms. To add a bit of humor it is set to Tchaikovsky’s Trepak Russian Dance so make sure that you have the volume turned up:


Leave a comment

Preserving Plastic

There was an interesting article in the Guardian recently about the difficulties that the V&A Museum are facing when it comes to preserving plastic objects: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/may/19/va-conservators-race-to-preserve-art-and-design-classics-in-plastic

The Blow Chair

The Blow Chair Image Courtesy of The Guardian

The rise in technology has led to the creation of new materials which are used to create art and objects, both decorative and every-day. However, we know very little about the longevity and the process as to how these materials will change. This has become apparent with some of the plastics in the V&A’s collection. Objects such as the Blow chair, designed in 1969, and the Stephen Willats Mini dress, also designed in the 1960s, are starting to degrade to the point beyond repair, and the only way to protect them to keep them in dark, temperature controlled stores.

ac8c0184-5342-421d-a518-95c26e70fd91-348x420

Stephen Willats Mini dress Image Courtesy of The Guardian

The common assumption with plastics are that they are a stable substance, when in actual fact they are very brittle. The reason plastic is brittle is because plasticers are used in the process to make it malleable. Unfortunately, plasticers have a habit of leaking, making the object sticky, attracting dust and dirt. This stickiness also makes it very difficult to clean as brushes and water only further damage the object. Plastics are also susceptible to changes in temperature, humidity and light, which can lead to discolouration, decaying to a powder, warping, cracking and shrinking – all the things that we try to prevent happening to our collections as a whole.

As plastic is still a relatively new material we do not know as much as we would like in order to prevent damage to it. This is why the V&A has partnered with Imperial College London to try to see how we can prevent further damage as well as its causes. With most other materials that can be found in historic house, there is a history of research that has gone into how we can best look after them.

Light damage to the Sofa turning it from Pink to Green

Light damage to the Sofa turning it from Pink to Green

Temperature, light and relative humidity are monitored both weekly and biannually. This ensures that we keep an eye on things that might be in danger of deteriorating and we can then assess how best to limit any damage. Humidity causes objects to shrink and grow that leads to stress fractures and cracks as can be seen on the cabinet at the Top of the Stairs. Light not only causes objects to fade but also causes threads to fray and eventually tear. Light also causes a chemical reaction whereas the object will actually change colour – like in the drawing-room where the rose-pink sofa has faded to a murky green colour.

Deep Cleaning the Mosque lamp in the Drawing room

Deep Cleaning the Mosque lamp in the Drawing room

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, (https://standennt.wordpress.com/2015/05/19/deceptive-dust/) dust is another factor that damages the collection as it discolours objects but also forms a hard surface which not only attracts more dust but is also very difficult to clean off without damaging the object.

This is why knowledge and a good cleaning routine are so important. We dust and vacuum the house once a day plus every object gets an annual deep clean every year. It is also why the house may seem cold or dark as we try to preserve it for the future.


Leave a comment

Object of the Month – June: Voysey Linen Press

Linen Press designed by C.F.A Vosey

Linen Press designed by C.F.A Vosey

This linen press in the North Spare Dressing Room was designed by C.F.A Voysey, a renowned architect and furniture designer during the Arts and Crafts period.

A linen press is similar to what we know as a linen or laundry cupboard. They were built to hold sheets, napkins, clothing and other textiles.

Voysey was not only a furniture designer but also an architect and wallpaper designer. He started his own architect practise in 1881 and used furniture and wallpaper design to supplement his income.

One of the common features used to identify Voysey’s work is a simplistic design with clean horizontal and vertical lines. He strongly believe in letting the high quality materials speak for themselves and preferred using unfinished and unpolished materials, especially wood.

Simplicity, sincerity, repose, directness and frankness are moral qualities as essential to good architecture as to good men”. (C.F.A Voysey)

 

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Object of the Month March: Webb Table

This oval mahogany table is one of our House Steward’s favorite pieces in the house. Designed by Phillip Webb, the table is supported by 7 legs —a central thick leg and 6 thinner legs with  rounded bulb like decoration. The thinner outer legs have thin bamboo like side stretchers or connections halfway down  whilst similar stretchers connect the central leg to the 6 outer legs. All in all, it is an incredibly well-balanced table with all the legs touching the floor.

Webb Table

Webb Table

Phillip Webb was both a designer of furniture and an architect. It was him who  designed Standen right down to the littlest of details, like the picture hooks.

Phillip Webb

Phillip Webb

Webb trained as an architect in Reading and Oxford. Whilst he was training under G.E. Street in Oxford, he was put in charge of a new apprentice, William Morris, and thus began a life long friendship. Morris soon changed his direction and became a designer. Webb was one of the original founders of Morris’s company, Morris & Co, and soon started producing furniture designs for the firm. Even after Webb resigned, he continued to recommend Morris & Co to his clients, as he did with the Beales at Standen.


Leave a comment

Filtering Light

Light damage to the Sofa turning it from Pink to GreenLight is one of the most damaging factors in conservation. Light damage is quite easy to spot as causes quite dramatic fading or bleaching but for other objects it can be even more damaging. For textiles like cushions and wall hangings light causes fibers to break down and eventually tear. For organic materials, like paper and animal based glues, they become brittle whilst vanishes and oils harden and flake.

Light falls across a spectrum and different ends cause different problems, such as Ultra Violet (UV), visible (which is the only part of the light spectrum that humans can see) and infrared radiation (which we feel as heat). The most damaging part of the light spectrum for historic collections is UV.

P1040470

The UV Film ready to go

Ideally UV levels should be at zero but it is impossible to prevent UV from reaching collections as it is present in both natural light and light bulbs. Fortunately the light bulbs here in the house do not emit too much UV but the windows and doors present another problem.

In order to prevent as much damage as we can, we follow a strict light plan by limiting the number of hours the blinds and shutters are open. we also use UV filters on all of the windows and doors.

UV filters are made up of a polyester film that absorbs and reflect UV. However it is not perfect and does let in some UV. UV film lasts between 10 – 12 years during which point air bubbles and cracks start to appear. We have recently had our filters replaced which was very interesting to watch.

P1040473

The UV Film being applied to the Half Landing Windows

Firstly the old film had to be removed which is rather simple – it is literally pulled off the windows and then any residue left on the glass is scraped off with a razor blade. The glass is then washed. The new film is then stuck on using water as its adhesive. it sounds very simple but the new film has to be tested before being applied to ensure it is up to the job and then it has to be cut to fit the pane of glass exactly. You can imagine in certain places here, like the windows on the Half landing, taking a long time!

 


Leave a comment

Object of the Month: February 2015 – The Grand Piano

When Standen was given to the National Trust, members of the family were invited to take a memento and one descendant took the Grand Piano that was in the Alcove in the Hall. It has recently been returned too us through a generous donation.

The Grand Piano back in the Hall

The Grand Piano back in the Hall

The piano  was made by Broadwood in June 1898 and was delivered to the Beales’ on the 14th November 1898. The porters’ book entry for its delivery reads:

“Mrs. James S. Beale, 32 Holland Park W

A no. 4 Drawing Room cross-strung Gd Pf Rosewood a to c no. 45059

175 guineas for £156 net delivered to ditto.

Tune 6 months free then 4 @ 21/-

& moving a Collard Gd Pf in the house”

32 Holland Park was the Beales’ London address, where they lived until they moved to Standen permanently in 1905.

The Piano in the Hall in the early 1900s

The Piano in the Hall in the early 1900s

Broadwood & Sons was created in 1808 but has a history dating back to the early 1700s. At its peak, they were making 2500 pianos a year. Broadwood & Sons gained further recognition when Chopin used one on his first visit to London and soon other well-known people, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,  were buying them.

Broadwood & Sons still exists today and regularly tune the pianos here.

 


Leave a comment

Copper Green…

The Copper Kettle

The Copper Kettle

This kettle made out of brass and cooper was designed by Christopher Dresser. Like any metals in an oxygenated environment, copper and brass need to be cleaned at least once a year to help them their shine.

In order to clean this kettle, two substances are used; Autosol which is a metal polish that removes oxidation  rust, stains and corrosion, without being too corrosive. Autosol is applied to a small piece of cotton wool and then rubbed gently to remove any dirt or corrosion. Cotton

buds are used on smaller harder to reach areas, such as where the

Materials used in cleaning copper and brass

Materials used in cleaning copper and brass

handle joins the pot, to free it of as much dirt and discoloration as possible.

The kettle was then buffed slightly before a layer of Rennaisance wax was was added using a specially designated hogs hair brush, which is the second substance.This adds a barrier to prevent some moisture and oxygen from reaching the surface causing corrosion.

Green stained dirt

Green stained dirt


Leave a comment

Something Old, Something New

The De Morgan Cabinet

The De Morgan Cabinet

Recently we have been loaned a beautiful cabinet, designed by William De Morgan and made by J.P. Seddon around the 1870s, by the De Morgan Foundation.

The cabinet is made of stained ebonised oak with floral inlaid motifs on its sides created from ebony, padoak, box and maple, as well as gilt accents. It also has an oil painting depicting St George presenting the princess and the captured dragon to the King.

As with any item that comes into our care, we thoroughly clean and

1 Hogs Hair and 2 Pony Hair Brushes

1 Hogs Hair and 2 Pony Hair Brushes

inspect it. I used three different brushes plus an ergo vacuum cleaner to do this. I used a hogs hair brush for the wood, mostly the back of the cabinet and a softer ponytail hair brush for the inlaid wood. I also used a separate ponytail hair brush for the gilt accents. Hogs hair is a lot coarser so can be damaging to soft materials but on hard woods it is very good at getting dust from little cracks and crevices. Pony hair is very soft and as such can be used on most materials apart from textiles.

Condition Report

Condition Report

Dusting the cabinet also gave me the chance to inspect it for any possible damage like cracks or chips. I recorded this all onto its Condition report, so that when we next deep clean it, someone can look at the report to see if there is any new damage.

 


Leave a comment

Environmental Monitoring…

Running a historic house involves lots of different kinds of work, which we divide up into daily, weekly and annual jobs. One of the weekly jobs is to monitor the light, humidity and temperature. If the levels are wrong, than the collection deteriorates and becomes permanently damaged.

The Sofa in the Drawing room that used to be pink...

The Sofa in the Drawing room that used to be pink…

Light is one of the main causes of damage in any house, not just historic ones. It can be quite easy to see some of the damage through fading of colors but this is really only an outwardly sign of deeper damage. A high amount of light activates the chemicals, that make up the color, to react and change. One of the best examples that we have here of this is  the velvet upholstery on the sofa and matching chairs in the Drawing Room – they used to be a bright rose-pink but are now green.

Light also affects the threads in fabric, causing them to break down and snap leading to tears and rips. Ever handled something that has fallen apart in your hands when you  pick it up? This is what can happen to fabrics like curtains, carpets and tapestries.

Humidity levels are different for every type of object. For example, the correct humidity level for metals is too dry for wood, which would cause the wood to dry out and split. If the humidity is too low, organic materials like leather and wood shrink, crack and even in extreme cases, break. If the humidity levels are too high, than organic materials swell and stick, like drawers in a desk. High humidity causes dampness which in turn encourages mould and fungi. It also attracts insect pests and cause metals to rust.

Temperatures has two effects on collections. It is directly linked to humidity levels, so if it is hot, then humidity levels will be low and vice versa. Low temperature, especially sub-zero ones, will cause objects to become brittle and crack, whilst high temperatures can soften and melt some materials.

Environmental Monitor

Environmental Monitor

It can be difficult to find the right balance between these factors, which is why we monitor them at least once a week. In order to attempt to prevent damage, we have set budgets. In every room, there are certain objects that have been deemed as at a higher risk than others, which is determined by several factors, their materials or their historical significance to the house. These are the objects that we measure off using an environmental monitor.

This measure light or lux levels, relative humidity (RH) and temperature. We record it manually and take action a level is too high or low. Light is the easiest to fix as we can adjust the blinds, which is why it can sometimes be a little bit dark at times. Humidity and temperature is a bit harder to fix as it often involves adjusting heating levels and putting out humidifiers/de-humidifiers.