Standen

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


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What to do with the carpet?

It’s November and we’re running our usual focus on conservation weekends with demonstrations and an exhibition.

As we cover up the Larkspur bedroom we have a small carpet we need to store for the duration. As you might guess, we have a very particular way of storing carpets – and this is how…

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Hearth rug from the Larkspur Bedroom

We can’t fold it because textile weakens on the creases over time and can crack, so we have to roll it.

To roll it, first we turn it over – so much easier with a small carpet – when we rolled the carpet in the drawing room it took 6 of us to turn it over!

Hand made carpets are made vertically so they have a distinct direction of the pile – they feel smooth as you run your hand down it. Turning the carpet over and rolling from the top  down means we open the dense weave of the pile helping dust and ingrained dirt to get out.

We use an ordinary plastic drainpipe to roll carpets onto. It’s cheap, can be cut to size and easy to get hold of. It’s also fairly lightweight while being pretty sturdy, which is important when you think just how heavy huge carpets can be.

We wrap the drainpipe with acid free tissue and roll the carpet with tissue in between the layers to protect it (it’s easiest if you can find nice big pieces of tissue) and begin to roll.

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The view from the business end

You have to stop every so often to check the carpet is rolling straight, so the edges of the carpet are supported – if your ends are unsupported they can be damaged over time. However, sometimes the edges of the carpet aren’t straight, so we support them with little sausages of acid free tissue.

Once we’ve rolled it we wrap it  – in this case we’ve used a non-woven fabric called Tyvek. The ends are tied or tucked in to stop dust getting in and we can put it away.

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Finished and ready to store!

This carpet isn’t going away for long, just until spring next year when we will take down the conservation exhibition and reinstate the Larkspur rooms.

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Redecorating the Drawing Room

The Drawing Room at Standen, West Sussex.

The Drawing Room as it usually looks

For the last couple of days, the house team have mainly been concentrating on emptying the Drawing Room of its contents, as the room is being redecorated next week. The paintwork is looking a little old and tired, and a new coat of paint should really brighten the room up. Of course, this does mean that there was the ‘small’ matter of where the room’s contents were going to be temporarily stored!

Standen isn’t a large house, and aside from the permanent storage spaces that are already in use, we don’t have much in the way of additional storage space for our collection. When it came to temporary storage for the Drawing Room collection, we needed to utilise other showrooms – consequently we ended up with cushions on the billiard table, and an array of ceramics safely stored on the Dining Room table…a slightly odd sight! Although there were lots of objects to be moved, members from the house team – along some of our conservation volunteers – were on hand to help, and the move went a lot more smoothly and quickly than anticipated.

Drawing Room carpet

Checking and vacuuming the Drawing Room carpet and underlay

Clearing the Drawing Room of its contents was a good opportunity to properly inspect the room and its contents – in particular, the wallpaper and carpet. The wallpaper is a William Morris design called Sunflower, and looking at it closely, we could see that there was silverfish damage in places, although the damage didn’t seem to be quite as bad as we found in the Larkspur Dressing Room last week. The carpet – also a Morris design – is huge, and almost fills the room. We were concerned that it may have fresh damage in places from carpet beetle, but because of its size, it was impossible to check the carpet thoroughly until we were able to completely empty the room – luckily, we could find no traces of new damage.

The Drawing Room is a favourite of mine – it’s such a restful room, with so many wonderful features – and with the room empty, you could really appreciate the space itself. The craftsmanship that had gone into creating its outstanding features, such as the fireplace surround and the fretwork around the windows, was particularly apparent. The room looked so different, and we all agreed that it would make a fantastic setting for a dance or a party!

Drawing Room

Almost ready for the decorators!

This is the first experience I’ve had of emptying a room, and it was interesting for me to see the logistics of safely moving heavy items of furniture and countless precious objects – and organising them so that they kept the order they were displayed in! Fragile objects are removed bit by bit, which can often seem labour-intensive (a particularly fragile teapot lid was removed from the pot itself, and carried separately), but it really is the best way to ensure existing repairs or damage are not weakened. The heaviest and largest items of furniture – such as the huge, George Jack-designed display cabinet and the Morris carpet – will remain, covered in dust sheets in the centre of room, with the decorators working around them.


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Protection Store: update

Infested carpet in the Protection Store

A reminder of what the infested carpet in the Protection Store looked like

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the overhaul of the Protection Store and our subsequent discovery of an infestation of carpet beetle larvae, or ‘woolly bears’, as they’re known.

We had emptied the room of its contents in order to create better storage solutions, as well as inspect what we thought was a minor carpet beetle infestation. After discovering a rather more serious infestation than we had thought, we performed a hygiene clean in the hope that it might remedy the situation, but finally decided to remove the infested fitted carpet as a last resort.

Carrying out a hygiene clean

Carrying out the hygiene clean of the room – I’m standing on the platform at its original height, and stored underneath is the lino

With the room now completely empty, we needed to think about how we would store the room’s contents more effectively – especially the fragile William Morris lino, which was originally stored under a platform of sorts. This platform had been custom-made by some National Trust volunteers, and while it was really useful to be able to store objects on top of the platform, we thought that we could probably maximise the storage in the room by raising the height of the platform, which would then mean the lino would no longer need to be stored on the floor.

The finished platform!

The finished platform!

We recruited some of Standen’s Woodland volunteers to make alterations to the platform, and they did a great job. The platform was raised to about 5 ft 5 in, with plenty of room both on top and underneath for storage (though taller members of the House Team should mind their head when ducking underneath!) Most importantly, the Morris lino could be stored on top of the platform, out of harm’s way, therefore preventing further deterioration.

The finished platform

There’s plenty of storage space on top and underneath…

On a side note, the Morris lino is a really interesting item from our stores, and one that, unfortunately, visitors are not able to see – I think this makes it a good candidate for a future Object from the Stores feature, so watch this space!

The finished platform

The platform is tucked away in a corner, freeing up the rest of the room for more storage!


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Bug Alert! Adventures in the Protection Store

At the top of what was once the servant’s staircase are a number of light, airy rooms. Some of the rooms were used by the family, and others formed the servant’s quarters.

Unfortunately these rooms aren’t part of our visitor route, but they still require care and inspection from time to time (though not the same level of care given to our showrooms), because some of them are used to store objects from our collection.

One such room is the Protection Store. In here we store all sorts of things: large rolls of original carpets, a Liberty & Co. bedroom furniture set that belonged to Helen Beale (the last family member to live at Standen), and a number of pieces of rather rare early William Morris lino – of a type called corticene – which is unfortunately too fragile to display.

We’d been closely monitoring this room, as we suspected it might have a carpet beetle problem. We also knew that the storage methods used in the room needed improvement – the Morris lino was stored underneath a type of platform, which had enabled other objects to be safely stacked on top, but meant that the lino itself was stored directly on the floor, which wasn’t ideal. With the added risk of bug damage, we decided to overhaul the room in order to create a safer, more effective storage area.

Bug infested carpet

A section of the infested carpet, showing carpet beetle larvae and their casings

We emptied the room of most of its contents, and then evaluated the carpet beetle issue. We found that one area of the room’s modern fitted carpet was completely infested: ‘woolly bears’, the larvae of the carpet beetle, had been slowly eating their way through the carpet, and in that one part of the room, they were everywhere!

It is rather unusual for a modern carpet to be so heavily infested with carpet beetle – modern carpets are often in rooms and buildings that are well used, and so carpet beetles and their larvae don’t often settle there. But this particular insect can be a real problem in historic houses, which are full of all sorts of carpets, tapestries and hangings – both historic and modern – in areas that are little used, which gives bugs a good chance to settle in and cause significant damage before they’re discovered, which is why it’s so important for us to closely monitor all of our showrooms and storage areas.

Carrying out a hygiene clean of the Protection Store

Carrying out a hygiene clean of the Protection Store

We started to conduct a hygiene clean of the room; sweeping away cobwebs, wiping down the paintwork and fire surround, getting rid of some harmless (but pesky) cluster flies, and trying to clean the infested carpet.

After a while, we decided the fitted carpet was too risky to keep – by simply cleaning it, we wouldn’t be able to ensure that we’d eradicated all the bugs, and since it wasn’t an historic carpet, it was decided that we should dispose of it. Luckily the man that looks after our carpets was able to come the same evening, cut the carpet into pieces (as it was too big to remove in one go) and take it away with him.

Protection Store

The carpet is removed bit by bit, revealing green stained floorboards underneath

Having got rid of the infested carpet, we checked the historic carpets that had been stored in the room. They appeared untouched by the infestation, which is probably because they had been very well sealed in protective packaging; however a couple of the carpets were frozen as a precaution – this would help kill off any bugs that had been able to get inside the packaging.

Protection Store fireplace

Once the room was empty, its original Arts & Crafts features were revealed

Protection Store cupboard

We’re not sure if this fitted shelving unit is a later addition, but we were pleasantly surprised to find it hidden behind rolls of carpets!

With the room clean, empty, and bug free, the next step was to adapt the storage solutions to make them more effective…more on this next week!