Friday, 18 November 2011

Open House

Well, I have shown you just about all there is to see in the Georgian house now, until I get around to making curtains etc, and add more furniture to the rooms. But I realised that I hadn't posted a picture of the house with the front panels removed, so I have attached the photo above!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

There's Something in the Attic!

The attic rooms are the least finished rooms in my Georgian dollshouse. The two smaller rooms made suitable bedrooms, and I had to decide who would sleep in them. Attic rooms, or garrets, were not always set aside for servant accommodation as is often thought. The children of a family might well have had rooms in the attic, and in some houses bachelor guests would have been given rooms on the attic floor too, so I decided that the two small rooms would be set aside for bachelors. This meant I could use furniture that was a little more interesting than that which would have been found in rooms for servants. The room pictured above is the Yellow Bedroom. it is actually a different shade from that used in the hall, but probably looks similar in the photos. The bed is a McQueenie miniature kit, and the stripy fabric was something I picked up at a dolls house fair last year (unsurprisingly, as it requires sewing, it hasn't been used yet!) and thought would work well in this room, but the bed will need a mattress first! there's a serpentine chest in the corner of the room, made from a white wood kit.The other furniture is really just hand me downs from other rooms where it's no longer needed, but fits in quite well here.

The Green Bedroom looks rather spartan at the moment, the bottom pic is older than the one above, so you can see I've used some of the things in other parts of the house, the tall chest is currently on the landing. There's not an awful lot else to tell you about this room as you can see!

This is the last room in the Georgian house that I can show you. Yes, it's empty, I have no idea what to do with it and would like to ask you all what you think would be good in this room? I had thought of making a music room. The trouble is that is has an odd shape, the ceiling slopes in, as it forms the apex of the pediment at the front, and the arch way in the middle means that much of what is behind it can not be seen, or accessed easily. Mind you it is still a fair sized room even so. The rug was purchased by mail order, and is much brighter than I imagined, which is the trouble with mail order shopping! Not sure if the rug will stay for good. Please let me know your suggestions for this room!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes!

Whilst writing my blog on the history of halls, I was trying to imagine what living in a medieval hall would be like, one thing that struck me was how smokey it would have been. I found this picture on the web recently, taken at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, which has rescued several old English buildings from destruction. They have recreated a medieval hall, and that's what you can see above. Thought it was a suitably smokey image for Guy Fawkes Night!! (I don't know how that lived with all that smoke!!)

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Stairs: a Brief History

This post has largely been inspired by Simon (Miniature Enthusiast) who suggested looking into the history of stair cases through the years. I've had to do a little bit of research on this one, and it's difficult to know where to start in the history of stairs, as steps in themselves have been around for thousands of years. I have decided to focus on stairs in British homes (and some public buildings) following a similar chronology to my history of the hall.

In the early medieval period, if a house had an upper floor, it was likely to be used more for storage than living, and access was by ladder in many cases. some may have had rough wooden, or stone stairs depending on what was available locally, and what a person could afford.

Purton Green

spiral stone steps from a church tower

As the separation between the house owner's family and his servants grew, and more private rooms were created, particularly the solar, on the first floor, stairs became more important and improvements were made in construction and materials used. A separate tower or projection from the original building may have been constructed to house these new staircases.

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

Hardwick Hall

From the Elizabethan period onwards the newel post staircase, with its framed banisters, was becoming increasingly popular in the grand houses of the wealthy, and many of these newel posts had fine carved details on them too. they became yet another symbol of status and wealth.

Blickling Hall (made symmetrical in the 18th century!)



One particularly beautiful and outstanding staircase built in the early part of the 17th century was the circular Tulip Staircase designed by Inigo Jones in the Queen's House at Greenwich. This building was one of the first  classical houses built in Britain and would have looked truly remarkable to people at the time.

Tulip Staircase, Queen's House Greenwich, designed by Inigo Jones

As I mentioned in my previous blog, the staircase was often kept separate from the entrance hall in larger houses, as depicted here in a photo of Ham House in London, where you can just see the staircase through an archway beyond the hall.

The hall at Ham House

By the end of the 17th century staircases had become a very important feature in the wealthy households, and had become highly decorated, not only with carvings but often with walls and ceilings painted in the theatrical Baroque style of the period.


The hall and staircase at Hanbury Hall

another view of the stairs at Hanbury Hall

Detail of the painting on the stairs at Hanbury Hall

Rich carving and decoration at Ham House

 The staircase progressed through out the 18th century, with the heavy newel posts and banisters disappearing to be replaced by delicate banisters, this was possible due both to improvements in construction techniques and new materials like iron.

Sudbury Hall

Sudbury Hall

Sudbury Hall. Keen eyed bloggers may notice that this hall and staircase is the inspiration for the Sudbury Yellow colour that is available from Farrow and Ball, which I used in the hall and landing of my Georgian house!

Sudbury Hall in use for TV adaptation of Austin's Pride and Prejudice
Not sure where this one comes from!

Uppark House, the red door was used by servants to access 'below stairs'

The cantilevered staircase developed during the 18th century. Delicate staircases with little or no visible support, matched by decorative wrought iron balusters were perfect for the Age of Elegance!

The beautiful marquetry staircase at Claydon House

Another view of the staircase at Claydon House, showing the skylight above.
Osterley Park

Basildon Park

By the Regency the cantilevered staircase was being bent and twisted into beautiful sweeping curves, and fine materials like marble were also much in evidence too.

Carlton House

Carlton House

But not everyone followed the fashions of the 18th century, some tried to set their own trends, with some success too! Horace Walpole and William Beckford both used Gothick influences in their homes. Walpole at his home Strawberry Hill and Beckford at Fonthill Abbey. When Beckford was forced to sell his huge Gothick creation (part of which fell down shortly after due to bad construction techniques, and is now almost completely gone!) he moved to Bath, and at Lansdowne built a new, far smaller tower, in the Italianate style, a style, along the Gothic Revival, that would prove popular in the Victorian age.

The circular staircase at Beckford's Tower in Bath.

Walpole's Strawberry Hill

Detail of the staircase at Strawberry Hill

Strawberry Hill again

The Victorians plundered almost all the historical styles of history in their buildings. Gothic revival linked Britain's heritage with Pugin's notions of 'true' religious building styles (in a nut shell; Gothic good, classical bad and to blame for all the evils and vice in society!! a slightly polemical viewpoint I think!!)

Medieval Influence

Gothic Revival at Midland Grand Hotel, St Pancras

Victorian Gothic at Tyntesfield

For the 20th century I am going to show you examples of two staircases. One designed by Charles Rennie MacKintosh, in an early example of art deco style (care should be taken when using the term art deco, it was coined not in the 1920's or 30's, but in the 1970's. The styles we associate with art deco were often referred to at the time as being 'in the modern style' or simply as modern(e)). The other staircase is from the De Le Warr Pavilion at Bexhill-on-Sea, in the truly streamlined modern style of the 1930's.

MacKintosh's design for the staircase at Derngate in Northampton

The staircase as it appears now.
Looking down. The staircase at the De La Warr Pavilion

A side view

The light fitting that runs down the length of the spiral staircase.

But what about the humble dwelling? what sort of staircase would they have had? Well, many cottages would have a staircase installed to the side of a fireplace, often hidden behind a door, giving it the appearance of a cupboard. Other houses would have simple wooden stairs built along a wall, much like what most houses have today.