Sunday, 27 March 2011

Gothic London

I am lucky enough to pass by the Houses of Parliament most days on the way to work; this is a building that has fascinated me ever since I was a child. The intricate detail in the structure makes it look like it is made from matchsticks which would tumble in a strong gust of wind.

Taking inspiration from a recent blog from Nicky Haslam on the restoration of Strawberry Hill, I decided to take a closer look at my three favourite Gothic buildings in London, starting with the Houses of Parliament.

Houses of Parliament (also known as Westminster Palace) as we know it today, took around 30 years to build, starting in 1840. It was designed by Charles Barry.

The level of detail in this building is amazing, hundreds of narrow arched windows, prickly looking spires and miniature gargoyle heads. The yellow stone is contrasted with the grey roof, a combination which is common throughout all three buildings I visited. The gold detail in Big Ben brings an additional luxury (as if it needed it!) to the building. 

Natural History Museum - this beautiful building in South Kensington was completed in 1880, taking only 7 years to build which, considering the detail just on the exterior is incredible (Work began in 1873 and was completed in 1880).

The architect Alfred Waterhouse was inspired by Romanesque style, an architectural style from medieval Europe which developed into Gothic style in the 12th Century, and revived once again in the Victorian era.

I love the contrast of the sand coloured bricks with the blue-grey tones, making the building look fresh, even after 130 years. The aggressive pointed spires and turrets are off-set by the curved windows and the dramatic arch at the front entrance. My favourite feature is the stone gargoyle beasts that dominate the structure - snakes, lions, pre-historic and fantasy creatures guard the entrance, windows and roof; the air vents are adorned with bugs and I even found this guy in the grounds!

In a similar style to the Natural History Museum is the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel.

Originally built in 1873, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott (it was then called Midland Grand Hotel), has very recently been restored and is now re-open to the public after 76 years.

The exterior is classic red brick, with the features highlighted in sandy-yellow tones, with grey roof, which features sharp pointed spires and turrets. The windows are still arched, however they differ slightly from the NHM in that the arches feature a slight point. Whilst I was disappointed with the lack of scary gargoyles, this Gothic-revival style kicks the trend slightly with out of character adornments, mouldings and tiles that decorate the entrance, some of which border on Art Nouveau (see the blue tiles and corbels).

These buildings are all examples of Victorian Gothic revival. Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is an example of original Gothic architecture. Although it was built 600 years before any of the above, the style has remained so similar.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Deciding on a colour for our front door

Since moving to our flat, I have been trying to decide what colour to paint the front door. Not only does the front door give the first impression of a house, it is also what will greet you after a hard day's work. And so I think that it is something that requires a lot of thought and it is important to get it right.

For inspiration, I had a look around at the doors in my neighbourhood (above is a selection of these). From looking around the local roads, the colour of choice is blue. According to an article in the Telegraph this, along with red and black, is the safe choice; and bright colours such as purple and orange being ones to avoid. However, other sources suggest purple is a colour associated with royalty and as such conveys wealth and extravagance, and orange is associated with joy and happiness. So whilst safe colours may help your house to sell, if you aren't planning on selling any time soon, go for a colour that you love, will reflect your personality, and that you will be happy to be greeted by every time you come home!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Art Deco pin-up

I bought this art deco print from ebay. It is by Alberto Vargas, who was one of the most famous pin up artists. In the 1940s he created a series of WW2 pin-ups for Esquire magazine. I think this print is a page from one of these issues as it is backed with newspaper from 1941.
The subject of the picture is believed to be Vargas’s wife Anna Mae Clift, it is called "Sheer Elegance".

Monday, 7 March 2011

An interior time machine

I recently visited the Geffrye Museum in East London; it shows the shows the changing style of the English domestic interior from 1600 to the present day through a display of period rooms. The museum has been in existence since 1914 and is featured in a Grade 1-listed almshouse, built in 1714.
My favourite room was the 1830s Parlour. I love the bright blue wallpaper and matching curtains, contrasted with splashes of gold in the picture frames, tie-back and fire screen. This blue continues in the carpet, complemented with a deep red.
I also loved this 1890 drawing room. It is so over the top with four different wallpapers and ornaments on every surface. There is a strong oriental influence within the pictures and ornaments as well as a beautiful Art Nouveau ceiling light.

Dark wood was common in all rooms from the 17th Century until the late 1800s, much less fashionable with modern furniture but within these rooms it creates a look of such luxury and decadence.
This museum is a great resource if you are looking for inspiration for a period property restoration.