Sunday, September 20, 2009

18th Century Open House

Come with me on a Hogarthian journey. We're travelling to Spitalfields in London's East End, so ladies, raise your petticoats when you tiptoe across the cobblestones (you don't want that nasty ordure clinging to your dress) and gentlemen, please don't forget to give a ha'penny to the crossing sweeper.

We're standing outside 18 Folgate Street. Dennis Severs' House. Go ahead, lift the knocker. (Long beat.) That's strange, I told the family we'd be popping by. Let's go in anyway. No, please, after you.

(A bit of background: Artist Dennis Severs (1948-1999) spent his life transforming this formerly dilapidated Georgian house into a living time capsule now open to the public. Half-eaten food on tables, the sound of footsteps overhead and echoed conversations all create the illusion that a fictive family of Huguenot silk weavers is living all around you.)

Look at this room, would you? Those bones. Those details. That artful disarray. It's like a "World of Interiors" spread.

Love the panelling in this room. And the way that jade-colored seat cover pops against all those orangey-red hues. And the rough texture of that beige fabric -- is it a curtain? The edge of a sleeve? I can't tell. But it makes me want to design a billowy hemp blouse to wear with jeans, boots and a big wooden necklace.

That chilly English light creeping in from the window has me at "hello." Especially when tempered with the warmth of an unadorned candle. It's so "Tristram Shandy."

Love the assemblage of tiles on that kitchen wall. (Delft? Perhaps.) Wonder what they made for tea...Venison? Syllabub? Posset?

The right photograph can make the most untidy of rooms look utterly inviting. This is that photograph.

Grace Coddington needs to convince Anna to let her use this location, don't you think?

Mental note: Garlands are for more than just mantelpieces and bannisters.

Pea soup green, cobalt blue and orange. Who knew?
Can't speak.

Really, just can't speak.

Click here for a virtual tour of the house and information on opening times. Monday evenings require booking as they tour by candlelight -- how divine!

(Photo credits: LightLocations. And thank you to reader Linda who alerted me back in March to this incredible find.)

28 comments:

m said...

How funny, I was wandering around Spitalfields yesterday morning and stood outside this house (I've never done the tour) and wondered if you l knew about it, as it seemed so very 'you'. Even if you can't book for the tour, it's lovely to walk around this very atmospheric little corner of London as there are several streets of silkweavers' and merchants' houses, with wonderful doors/shutters - you can almost feel the ghosts! I completely understand why people keep their shutters closed when there's nosey people like me walking past - but I did peek into a couple of windows, and sighed over some wonderful historic interiors. Five minutes walk from Liverpool St Station, next time you're over here!

m said...

PS There's a book you might like called An Acre of Barren Ground (by Jeremy Gavron) which weaves a fictionalised account of all the different layers of history and immigration in these few streets. Fascinating when you feel you're treading in their footsteps.

Laura [What I Like] said...

I don't know how you find all of these wonderful little things, but I'm so glad that you do! Oddly, my favorite feature is that vest adorning the chair...and that bed with the red textiles does practically scream "debauchery" which is quite compelling as well. This is first on my list of activities for my next London trip...

Stephanie said...

What a lovely tour. When reading your post I recoginized "Spitalfields", and after about 10 minutes digging through my files, I found what I was looking for. My great-great grandparents' marriage certificate. They were married in London in 1871. At the time of their marriage they lived on Freeman Street in Spitalfields. The neighborhood was demolished in 1926, but it stood near the "Old Sptialfield Market" which is a couple of blocks from your Folgate Street.
What a wonderful view back in time for me. Thank you wholeheartedly.
~Stephanie from Ohio

Vanya @ Endless Inspiration said...

I've always wanted to visit this house, you have made me more determined than ever!

penelope said...

I really loved looking at this while I had my coffee this morning...thanks so much! I think I WILL take my sweet neighbor up on that estate sale date this afternoon.

sherry ♥ lee said...

What a delicious way for me to spend part of my Sunday afternoon -- taking this virtual tour with you. I was transformed by your prose!!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I bet the rooms smell of cinnamon and pipe tobacco.

Blue said...

You say the photos are like a WoI spread and I think it was photographed by WoI in the late 80s or early 90s. I'll find it, if I'm right, and let you know.

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Lisa--


I'd like some posset and syllabub, please.
And to sit in these rooms for a long time.

Odette said...

Wonderful! I'd never heard of that house before - thank you for the information about it & all the photos.

(question - did anyone else try to listen to the radio program on the website? I clicked on the link for part 1 & it downloaded something, but didn't play.)

Angie Muresan said...

Those photos are gorgeous, although I did shiver uncontrollably when I came upon the one with the dripping ceiling above the bed.

Helen James said...

OH I love love love it!! and I am off to London on Friday. Wonder if they would mind that I'll have a 6 month old in tow?

pve design said...

Let me grab my candelstick and waistcoat and I shall be right there.
Looks positively decadent and enchanting at the same time.
pve

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Helen James: Check the website as I seem to remember they do have a restriction on children...it appears the little rascals have a penchant for making noise. :)

plaisirs simples said...

I am SO inspired by this post!! I want to visit this place!! LOVE the teal chair as well. And it would be a GREAT place for a Vogue photoshoot. Well done!

Katie said...

Oh, how I love this post. In two sentences I was magically transported. You are a very talented tour guide - please take us on more journeys like this soon!

frances said...

I was up late last night in a Romantic swoon after seeing "Bright Star" and low and behold.. your gift.

And let's hear it for artful disarray, somehow in the harsh light of California it looks like...alas, a mess.
I'm meeting my daughter in London Oct. 3 and now hope to hope to visit Severs' House.
(My grandparents were married at St. Martin in the Fields in 1901.)
Also thank you for your nice note Lisa.

Amy said...

Thank you for this--I LOVE Dennis Severs' House and tell everyone I know who is going to London to try and visit. It really is an amazing experience.

m said...

Frances, there is a cafe in the crypt at St Martin's - a long time since I've been there but they used to serve candelit dinners amongst the gravestones. A nice way, maybe, to toast your grandparents' marriage? If dinner in the crypt is too spooky, they also have regular concerts in the church.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

I was wondering where to plan my upcoming (well in 8 months) bit birthday celebration -this may be taken into account! I was thinking either a grand old english country estate to rent with a group of friends or a chateaux b&b in the loire (very disparate I know!). Need to make up my mind!

tcg said...

Oh, this was such a highlight of my 5-week stay in London last summer! We went in the evening, so the details weren't crystal clear, but the atmospherics were phenomenal. Can't wait to go back in the daytime! The story behind the house and its creator is intriguing, too. Thanks for this post!!

Helen James said...

Oh Bah Humbug!

Bart Boehlert said...

I die.

Marian Quanbeck Dahlberg said...

What a delightful moment, a mini vacation in a blink of an eye. I was here, then suddenly in a few written words, I was spirited away from this reality to another. Time was my friend and fantasy was my companion! Enchanting!

Mlle Paradis said...

I visited the house a couple years ago. Two odd things about it: 1) Dennis Severs (now deceased) was actually a Californian! 2) I poked my nose behind a screen in one of the rooms and tossed on a chair was a 1950's American leather letter jacket! Curious juxtaposition. It's really worth the visit. My favorite was the basement kitchen - very rustic and such a contrast to the teacups like eggshells. You expect them to shatter if you breathe on them.

Wendy said...

I think that the best time to visit the house is at Christmas. They decorate it with 19th century style Christmas decorations. Candles on the tree and baked goods in the kitchen. It's very beautiful. I would recommend a visit to everybody.

Sildenafil said...

I am a contradictory kind of guy when talking about what I like, I mean I like technology and all the electronics gadget, but I also like ancient rustic houses like this one on the pictures!

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