Bellamont Forest: Palladian Villa in Ireland





The July issue of British House and Garden magazine was a stunning issue.    With so many American design magazines no longer publishing (over 12 have closed up shop in the past few years) the foreign magazines have become much more vital and BH&G is one of  the best of the bunch.   The three major stories in the July issue were all winners, but one in particular left me going back to take a peek, again and again.  


  image  Lo0cated 75 miles from the Dublin airport, Bellamont Forest estate is made up of over 1,000 acres.  


The British House and Garden spread on the Irish estate, Bellamont Forest, is accompanied with gorgeous photographs of the quiet interiors and glorious architecture.    The story about this Irish house gave me pause because of a certain email conversation I had  last year with one of Houston’s hottest interior decorators who specializes in contemporary design.    This much-in-demand decorator told me he was heavily investing in English and Irish antiques, with an emphasis on Irish.   He stated he was stockpiling these beauties to use in a future house.  Irish?   Hmm.    I was more than a little lost.   I would have easily understood if he was buying Belgian antiques – I mean, who isn’t these days?    But perhaps, this is exactly why HE is the successful one, the one with foresight, the one on magazine covers,  or the one with just a good eye?      Looking at these pictures of Bellamont Forest, I began to understand exactly where he was coming from.   The gorgeous carved chairs in the dining room and the consoles scattered about, so heavy and dark, are as far away from the anemic Belgian styling as you can get.  The dark brown antiques look refreshing, especially when they wear crisp blue and white checked Irish linen slips.   Yes, I could understand his fascination.   But, I was fooled.  Apparently, the majority of the “antiques” at Bellamont Forest are actually reproductions, exact replicas of the 18th century pieces that once graced the house.   The new owner, John Coote, actually has his own furniture company where he creates his faithful fakes.  Even the portraits are copies – replacing art that now hangs in museums and private houses around the country.    Still, reproductions or not, the appeal of this dark wood furniture became apparent to me, thanks to Bellamont Forest. 



Bellamont Forest is one of Ireland’s most historical private houses.  The front stairs lead past the Doric portico made of limestone to the only entrance on the Piano Nobile floor.  There is a large basement, a mezzanine level and an upper floor where the five bedrooms are located.    The house is a four bay square, built of red brick. 


Historic Bellamont Forest considered “the first and most perfect Palladian villa built in Ireland”  was constructed in 1729, and was modeled on Palladio’s famous Villa Rotonda and Villa Pisani.    The original owners, The Coote family, retained the house until 1874 when it was lost due to mounting debt.     In 1987, John Coote from Australia, a direct descendant of the original family, visited Ireland and discovered the estate in a terrible state of disrepair.   Learning it was for sale, he quickly bought it, reestablishing Coote family ownership.    He spent over 20 years restoring and furnishing the house to recreate it as it once was in the 18th century.  The architecture, especially the ceilings and rotunda, are breathtaking.    But, as it seems to often happen  these days,  the estate is amazingly now for sale.   According to Coote, his only son is back living in Australia and has no desire to stay in Ireland.  Coote himself is now living in London.  


image Bellamont Forest was designed by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce, the nephew of the first owner, Thomas Coote, Lord Chief Justice of Ireland.  The house has been designated in Ireland as of “National Importance.”


For this story, I have gathered as many photographs of the house as I could find, on top of the ones found in House and Garden.   As it so often happens with great stories, other blogs have tackled the story before me.   The fabulous blog, The Style Saloniste, recently interviewed John Coote HERE.   It is a must read if you want to learn more about the owner and the house.  Photographs taken from House and Garden are by Luke White.


image An aerial shot of Bellamont Forest.  The large complex to the right is the outbuildings, including the Linen Hall and Stewards House, which are reached from the main house via a groined ceiling underground tunnel.



image                                      There is one main entrance, which leads to the Piano Nobile level.  Here, the Entrance Hall sets the tone of the understated decor, yet glorious architecture.  All the paints were chosen from original scrapings.  Coote used a historic paint specialist for accuracy who recommended using distemper instead of paint.  Be sure to notice the ceiling.




                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              imageThe other side of the Hall.   The flooring is Portland stone.   I love the inset busts above the door.  Here, the chairs with the bold check linen make their first appearance.  I think this is my favorite room in the house – I love the large Entrance Halls found in the grand country estates in England and Ireland. 





A close up view at night.  Several rooms lead off the Hall.   The door to the library is at the left.



 image Same view, daytime.   I assume the car keys and mail end up on this console.





From the Entrance Hall, you enter the Grand Saloon or Ballroom – the main room in the house.   Here, portraits of the original Coote family were recreated since the originals are in museums and other grand houses.   The furniture comes from Coote and Co., faithful reproductions of 18th century originals. 



image The Saloon, again.  Notice the gorgeous plasterwork ceiling.   The room is unfurnished – left as a ballroom or reception room would be in the 18th century. 




Coote, an interior designer, purposely kept the house’s furniture to a minimum, exactly as it would have been in the 18th century.    He says the house was built for parties, and the saloon is still used for dancing. 



Another  earlier view of the Saloon.  Eventually, all the empty frames were filled with art work. 




The Drawing Room, off the Saloon is fabulous with its Persimmon Pink walls.   The gesso coated console table is one of a pair recreated by Coote.   I absolutely love the color combination of the pink, orange, and blue – a mix I would never have thought of.   The skirted table and pillow fabric picks up the pink on the walls.   The rug is 19th century English.   Modern art work by Robert Doble seems the right choice in this room.   The windows are left bare – the tree branch screens the bright sun, while adding yet another color.   Typical of grand houses found in England and Ireland, the furniture is slipcovered.   Notice again, the beautiful ceiling. 




Another view of the Drawing Room showing the fireplace, but the color in this photograph is “off.”   



The dining room is painted a light lilac gray to pick up the color of the fireplace’s marble.   Again, the furniture is by Coote.   The bold checks used throughout the room are made of Irish linen.    When Coote found the house, it had gone through a psychedelic decorating phase, and before that, the house was covered in carpet and chintz.    Now, fresh Irish linens are used throughout and the floors were left bare.   Again, notice the ceiling which matches the ceiling in the Drawing Room – these two rooms are identical. 




image Another view of the dining room – the jib door is almost closed in this picture, as compared to the one above.   I love this room!!!!   Notice the pair to the Drawing Room’s console table is found in here.  There is a small kitchen located off the dining room, but the main kitchen is in the basement. 



image In this picture, you can see more accurately the slight lilac color of the walls.   Also, notice how the relief in the molding is painted a deep lilac.




image The library off the Reception Hall is typical English Country Manor cozy.   This and the bedrooms are the only rooms decorated for today, rather than the 18th century.



image Another view of the small library off the Reception Hall - this room is frequently used by the family. 



image Here is a glimpse into the earlier design of the room- with chintz and a plain ottoman.   The chintz was replaced with the red velvet, and a tapestry now covers the ottoman.  The walls and curtains remain the same.




image The large kitchen is located in the basement.   Here, the stone floor is original.  The ceiling is groin vaulted.   I love the dressy table and chairs used in this all white kitchen – so elegant.  What a great place to hold a dinner party!!



image The opposite view showing the fireplace and incredible ceiling. 



image  A closeup view of the fireplace and ovens.  The butcher’s table is beyond gorgeous.   What a kitchen!   No one does kitchens like the English and the Irish.  Notice the copper pots in the standing rack – and all the hooks in the ceiling!



image The second floor is lit by a large cupola.   All the bedrooms are located off this main room. 




The same room – the wood floors here had to be replaced by Coote.   You can see a window up in the cupola on the left side.



image An earlier view of the same space – before the hardwoods were restored.   Here the walls are painted blue, while today they are a soft sage/gray.




A view of the space today, showing the oval cupola.   The stairs – made of stone – shown in the doorway on the left are located off to the side of the house as is typical in Palladian designs.





Looking up at the gorgeous oval cupola with its four windows. 



image One of the five bedrooms located on the second floor has the same pink walls as the Drawing Room.




image This bedroom is more masculine.  As with most Palladian houses, the ceilings on the second floor are lower as compared to the Piano Nobile. 



image Views inside either the outbuildings or the basement (not sure.)  Again, beautiful groined ceilings, wonderful flag floors, and simple yet elegant decor.  I love how the huge laundry baskets are shown throughout the house – they add a warm touch to any decor.




image The outbuildings are quite impressive.   Space was made for stables to be built. 







Another view of the outbuildings.    Room for stables have been made out of the converted space.  Plus there is room for more bedrooms, conference rooms, and party rooms.









Floor plans of both the main house and the outbuildings.





To read The Style Saloniste’s interview with John Coote, go HERE.

To access John Coote’s web site, go HERE.

To read the Real Estate brochure for Bellamont Forest, go HERE.

Hanham Court by Cabbages and Roses


This week on the Skirted Roundtable we welcome Christina Strutt, the founder and head designer of Cabbages and Roses, an English based fabric, clothing, and home decor company.    As the name implies, Cabbages and Roses has a romantic look, similar to Laura Ashley and Rachel Ashwell.  Their fabrics are checks and stripes, roses and chintz, all in wonderful colors.    Strutt has also written many books, and her most recent, At Home With Country, was just released.  In her new book, she features many houses, most in the United States,  outfitted with Cabbages and Roses fabrics.     Besides all the stateside houses,  she also includes her own wonderful house in Bath.   Another  English house, really a historic castle near Bath,  featured in the book is Hanham Court.    Hanham Court is the country estate of the famous garden designing couple – Isabel and Julian Bannerman.   The Bannermans have designed gardens for such elites as The Prince of Wales at Highgrove, Lord Rothschild at Waddesdon Manor, the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webb, John Paul Getty II at Wormesley, and the list goes on and on.  They also won the competition to design the British Memorial Garden at Ground Zero in New York City.  

I have been planning to do a blog post about the Bannermans for over a year now, so having Christina Strutt on the Skirted Roundtable discussing her new book with its chapter on Hanham Court gave me the incentive to finally tell their story!  


The Bannermans live at Hanham Court with their three sons. The gypsy caravan they keep at Hanham Court is often photographed.


The historic house, Hanham Court, located between Bath and Bristol, started life in the 11th century and has been added onto a multitude of times.    The Bannermans have lived there for 15 years, spending much money and effort on recreating the lush gardens which were bare when they arrived.     Besides running their thriving garden design business, the Bannermans have turned Hanham Court into a tourist destination.   It is open for daily tours, overnight visits and is a popular  party venue.    Since there is also a chapel, a mediaeval abbey, connected to the house, many weddings are booked here too.    Throughout their residence, the Bannermans have created many romantic gardens, secret walkways with gates, along with ponds, fountains, and a pool.   Almost every historical era in design is represented on the estate.  The barn dates from Norman times, the gables and gatehouse are Tudor, the main building is Elizabethan, there are Georgian era additions and an Arts and Crafts Kitchen wing and loggia added in the early 1900s.   In the 19th century there was a regothification to the exterior and interior. 


image  An aerial shot of the large estate showing how many different buildings make up Hanham Court.


Inside the estate, the rooms are the very definition of English Country Manor cluttered style.   Every wall, table, and shelf is jammed full with prints, books, papers, and knickknacks.  The interiors are very, very casual and quite messy.   Surprisingly, this past April, Christie’s held a large sale of the Bannerman’s many collections and possessions.   A total of 300 items went up on auction.   The Bannermans said the sale was needed to provide funds in order to focus their attentions to the gardens.   Seeing photographs from their gardens, it’s hard to imagine what else it could possibly need, but they said “it is time for surprises in the garden…we have been aching to get on with.”    The sale brought in around $1,600,000 – much higher than estimated.      To be able to sell over 300 items from one’s house and still have enough left over to furnish a castle is proof of the Bannerman’s collecting bug.   It will be interesting to see what changes will be made to both the inside and the outside of Hanham Court now that they have done the spring cleaning to end all spring cleanings.



Hanham Court shown in 1900.   You can see how bare the gardens were. 


 image And, even earlier, in 1861.




Upon arriving on the estate, a glimpse of the house seen through the flowering shrubs.  Beautiful stone wall.



image The  main section of the estate with its round tower.



image A view of the English styled gardens.




Entering the estate through its  ornamental iron gate.




The walkway flanked with topiaries leads to the front door.




Tulips planted in a large tub.  The wisteria climbs over the front side of the estate.




image Close up of the terrace in front of the round tower.



The old coach door, opens unto the green lawn, shown below.




A view from inside of the vast lawn with gardens on each side.  The swimming pool is hidden behind the gardens on the left side of the lawn.




Same view in spring.  To the very right is the top of an ornamental gate on the property (shown below.)





image The wooden ornamental gate to the right of the lawn.



The swimming pool – so pretty!




The same view in the dead of winter.




Another walkway through an arched stone gate.




The back of the house with its arched loggia where wedding receptions take place and plants are sold to tourists visiting the gardens.




Inside the house – the grand staircase is lined with the best of the Bannerman’s oil paintings.




This photograph is from Christina Strutts’ book, At Home With Country.  The pillow on the chair is from the new Cabbages and Roses fabric line in blacks and grays and whites (my favorite!)


image Centuries old staircase – amazing!  I assume this is in the round tower, but I’m not sure. 


image The stone floor hallway leads off the dining room, kitchen stairs, grand hall staircase, and entrance hall.   The dining room is to the left.


 image The dining hall was once dark before a former owner lightened the wood.   The Bannermans recently limewashed the wood. 




A close up of the dining hall.  Notice the old stone flag floor. 


image Looking the other way at the fireplace in the dining room.  Towards the door – you can see the main staircase shown before.  The round medallion above the fireplace was sold at the Christie’s auction.



image A main sitting room with green wallpaper, blue wood paneling, and seagrass.




A closeup of the cluttered fireplace mantel.  This photograph comes from Strutt’s At Home With Country.   The framed intaglios were sold in the Christies auction.  OK – who wants to just run their arm over the mantel and knock all those vases off?????  Me first! 



image This photograph is from At Home With Country.  The chair and pillows are covered in Cabbages and Roses fabric.



image The same chair went up for auction – the chair dates from 1815 and sold for $2,884.    I would have to make a new seat cushion!!!






The red library is one of the most used rooms in the castle.   The bookcase and fireplace are gothick styled.  The bookcases were sold at auction as were the two chairs and the center table.   I wonder what the room will look like after it is redone.


 image Looking back out the windows in the red library.   The fireplace mantel is amazing.


image From Strutt’s At Home With Country.  Here the red library looks deep pink, ,which is the true color.   The chair wears Cabbages and Roses fabric.   Through the door is the stone hallway off the main staircase shown before.




Another photo from At Home With Country.   The small bookcase in the corner is shown below at auction:



The small bookcase from 1860 went for $4,999.



image The large Irish bookcase from 1820 sold for over $18,000.




The library’s 1870 center table sold for over $9,000.   Even more from the library was sold at auction.  I wonder where they will store their books now?



 imageThe kitchen wing was added during the Arts and Crafts Movement in the early 1900s.  I love the huge window. 




Here is a closeup picture of the kitchen.  The range is on the back wall set inside a mantel.  Notice the barn style door on the right leading outside.




A guest room photographed for the book At Home With Country.  All the fabrics are Cabbages and Roses.



The master bedroom is painted turquoise and features a bed made from antique pelmets.   Love this so much!!!



image The master bedroom.  The chest on the stand sold at auction, too, as did the chairs in the room.



Aw, I love this!   The above picture of the master bedroom has been on the cover of a magazine before.  The sofa “makes” the room!   Why sell it for $6,700?   I guess they needed that money too! What a shame.



 imageThe late 17th century cabinet sold for over $16,000.   Now, that’s worth it to sell even though I love this piece in the bedroom too.





One of the son’s bedroom has William and Morris wallpaper in it, along with a fabulous canopy bed.






A photograph from a recent wedding held at Hanham Court. They matched with his gold pants and tie and her gold stripe trim at the hem of her dress.   



I hope you’ve enjoyed this visit to Hanham Court.   To visit the Christie’s web site for the Hanham Court auction, go HERE.  To visit Hanham Court and the Bannerman’s Garden Design web site, go HERE.




To order the book At Home With Country, go HERE. 




The picture above is from Christina Strutt’s home in Bath, England, showing the red and pink fabric line from Cabbages and Roses. 

To visit Cabbages and Roses web site, go HERE.    And please, don’t forget to listen to Christina Strutt’s interview on The Skirted Roundtable,  HERE.  Tonight, we will be interviewing Bobby McAlpine.  Wish me luck!!!!