Floral, patterned fabrics are back in style. Maybe not yet quite a trend, but there is a renewed interest in prints. Driven by a rejection of all-beige and all-white interiors - bright, color drenched rooms have been popping up in magazines, looking very fresh and new.
This library by Miles Redd, recently shown in House Beautiful, says it all. Prints are back. And to satisfy the demand, fabric houses are busy introducing new designs, but, the old patterns are as popular as ever.
When you think of the well known fabric names – Bowood is certainly on the list. The story of legendary designer John Fowler finding a scrap of the fabric while decorating at Bowood House and then having it made up by Colefax & Fowler, has long been repeated. Of course it doesn’t hurt that the Bowood fabric is so pleasing to the eye. It certainly is one of the most recognizable fabrics by both sight and name.
While I know the story about Fowler and Bowood, I’ve never really read further about it, even though it is a most romantic tale as far as interior design tales go.
So, it was a very pleasant surprise to open up the June issue of Britain’s House & Garden and see a large spread on Bowood House. It shows rooms that have never been seen before, some of which were designed by Fowler, probably when he found and made the Bowood fabric one of his lasting legacies.
And most coincidently, I discovered that Bowood House is located in Wiltshire, that bucolic area of Britain that I’ve been profiling these past few weeks. Wiltshire, the land where Wilton House is, where Cecil Beaton’s beloved Ashcombe and Reddish House are located, where many of the Bright Young Things had lived – like Stephen Tennant and Rex Whistler, and where Edith Oliver had spent her entire life. Wiltshire.
And there is another very famous citizen of Wiltshire. The Duchess of Cornwall aka Camilla aka Prince Charles’ wife has owned a house there for decades. She lived in Wiltshire with her first husband and later, moved to Ray Mill House on the River Avon (again! The Avon!!) when divorced. Apparently she still stays there quite a bit of time with her children and grandchildren and is very active in Wiltshire society.
The proximity of Camilla’s house(s) to Bowood Estate is apparently not an accident. Very close friends with the Marquis of Lansdowne and his wife, Fiona, the couple provided a safe house for Camilla and Charles to tryst at while he was still married to Diana. In fact, in the infamous, secretly recorded telephone conversation between Camilla & Charles, they talk about a “Charles” and meeting at his house. That Charles was always believed to be the Marquis of Bowood House.
The Duchess of Cornwall on official business at Bowood House, along with her daughter.
Bowood Estate was established in 1754 by the 1st Earl of Shelburne, and the family, the Lansdownes, have owned it since. The estate, with gorgeous gardens and a noted house, covers over 2000 acres. Most remarkably, in 1955 – the main portion of the house was demolished because repairing it was deemed too expensive. The decision to tear down the house proved to be a subject of much debate by architectural historians, even still today, since parts of Bowood were designed by the revered Adams Brothers.
This month’s House & Garden story on Bowood House.
Today, the 9th Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne, Charles Maurice and his wife Fiona, live on the estate. He moved to the country house in 1972 and became the first of the family to live in Wiltshire full time. His wife, known professionally as Fiona Shelburne is an interior designer. Working for Colefax and Fowler, she came to drop off fabrics and ended up married to the Marquis 8 years later.
The family works hard at maintaining the estate, as it is a very viable business and tourist attraction - the house and gardens have been open to public since 1975.
The house is considered important and is listed because of the noted architects and designers that have contributed to it through the years such as the Adams Brothers and C.R.Cockerell.
The gardens, originally designed by famed Capability Brown, feature a lake and sloping lawn. Later in 1780, a water cascade by the lake’s dam was created, along with the “Picturesque” rockwork garden with its grottoes and hermit’s cave. Brown also designed a “Pleasure Ground,” with a pinetum and arboretum, behind the house, and a Ha-Ha out in front. The Italian style terraces that run in front of the house were planted in the 19th century designed by Robert Smirke.
While describing Bowood’s gardens, perhaps no one has said it better than the Duchess of Devonshire who presided over Chatsworth, one of the most beautiful grand houses in England:
“The garden with its eye catching lake and cottage are set in the sort of idyllic 18th century landscape that makes you gasp at the sheer beauty and Englishness of it.”
Other parts, such as the famous sixty acre Rhododendron Walks are also most beautiful.
An original 1780s garden plan by Capability Brown. The house is drawn in deep red ink – it looks tiny compared to the size of the estate. A huge copy of this map hangs in the Bowood Hotel’s reception area.
Throughout its long history, family fortunes were made and lost and great art collections were amassed and sold. These possessions are on display at the house tour. One of the more interesting family treasures is the large Napoleonic Collection, acquired thanks to the marriage of the 4th Marquis to a daughter of one of Napoleon’s aide de camp.
In 2009, a new, large hotel with over 40 guest rooms was built on the estate. Lady Lansdowne helped drive its design which blends in with the main house’s decor. Besides the hotel, there is also a golf course, country club, restaurant, and health spa, along with fishing, hiking, and shooting sports.
While the Bowood Hotel is a big draw, tourists also come to see the gardens and Bowood House, whose public rooms are open to the public. What was exciting about the House & Garden magazine article is that it shows interiors that have never been seen before, including a drawing room originally designed by John Fowler. And it is interesting to see how often the family has actually used the famous Bowood fabric in the house!!
The red circle on the Left is the Bowood HOTEL & SPA. The red circle on the right is the ESTATE. So, you can see, the new hotel and spa was designed to afford the family and the guests quite a bit of privacy from each other.
Here is the main house. #1 shows the house itself. It is a large rectangle made up of two squares put together – there are two internal courtyards. Connecting the two squares in the middle is the chapel and the clock tower. #2 shows where the larger house “The Big House” once stood before it was demolished in 1955. The smaller square shows the Drawing Room that Adams built to connect the two houses together. #3 shows the terraced Italian gardens that line the front of Bowood House. And #4 shows the Walled Gardens, the 4 acres of gardens that are behind the house. They include the swimming pool, the kitchen gardens, greenhouses, and cutting gardens.
An aerial view of Bowood House with the terraced Italian gardens with its distinctive box topiaries in front. At the center of the house is the chapel which sits under the clock tower. The chapel divides the once large internal courtyard into two separate ones.
Behind the house are the walled gardens. If you look closely, you can see clothes hanging on a line outside! The public rooms run along the front facade from left to right. The family’s private areas start at the front’s most right corner and run down the side to the back wing. Two-thirds of the house were demolished when the Big House was torn down. Still, the remaining 1/3 is incredibly large.
The original Big House showing the Adams Brothers portico and two large bay windows. The Adams Brothers also built the front facade or Orangery on the “Little House” – to hide the service wing that is today the back facade of the house.
An early photograph shows The Big House on the right and the Adams Brothers facade on The Little House, at the left.
Before the Adams Brothers were hired, the Big House and the Little House were not connected. When the Adams Brothers built the front facade or Orangery on The Little House, they also built a large drawing room which connected the two houses in the center corner. Circled in red is that drawing room which was added to connect the two houses.
In red – you can see what section of the house was torn down in 1955.It’s interesting to see how thin the box topiary shapes on the Italian Terraces were back then compared to today. Today, the box shapes are much thicker and more square shaped.
The demolished Big House with the Adams Brother Portico. The Marquis tried to sell the portico but had no takers. The drawing room WAS sold to Lloyds of London and it was installed in their ultra contemporary office tower.
The floor plan of the Big House and the Little House with the Drawing Room shown connecting the two houses in the corner.
A photograph of the Big House’s foyer before it was demolished with its marble floors and distinctive plasterwork.
Close up from the drawing room in the Big House. This section of the wall is now located in the Lloyds of London office tower.
And the fireplace. The torcheres are now in Bowood House’s chapel.
The Adams Brothers drawing room from the Big House – that was built to connect it to the Little House. It is shown here, at Lloyds of London in their contemporary office tower. George Jackson & Sons moved the room from Bowood Estate to London. This was the same company that had installed the room at Bowood House almost two centuries earlier!!!
A closer view of the former Bowood drawing room. Do you see the molding around the painting – that is the same section that was shown in the photograph before. Here is a detailed report of this room if you are interested in reading more about its fascinating history. HERE.
A closer aerial view. Behind the right courtyard is the Lady’s walled garden where summer meals are taken. Behind that is the swimming pool, located in the 4 acre walled gardens.
Here is a look at the “Little House.” This is the front facade or Orangery that was built by the Adams Brothers to screen what was then the “service wing” behind it. All the public rooms are found in this front facade. The front gardens are the Italian Terraces created in the 19th century.
The front terrace – fountains and flowers. Beautiful!
The front facade. Tourists enter at the center section with the large fan light above the door.
At the right side of the front facade, looking towards the left. You can see the clock tower that sits atop the chapel. Rows of flower-filled urns sit atop the low wall.
At the corner of the front facade and the right side. The right side is lined with glorious flowers beds. Located at this corner – is the family’s private drawing room – designed by John Fowler.
The Right Side. Gorgeous! You can’t even see the wall at the side facade – it’s hidden by all the flowers and plants. At the very left corner is the John Fowler drawing room. At the center of the Right facade – is the stairhall room – also designed by John Fowler.
And looking at the right side towards the front.
In this early morning view – a beautiful photograph from the right facade – you can see Capability Brown’s layout – with the lake on the left and the rolling hills beyond.
The ha-ha. Gorgeous!
Here is an original floor plan – with the rooms on tour in red. The Orangery:
During WWI, the Adam Orangery was used as a hospital. Today – behind the screen, is the entry to the chapel on the left and the right faces the front Italian Terraces.
Past the screen, they set up a pool table for the sick men. At the left – are the double black doors that lead to the chapel. Today – those two makeshift pendant lights over the table would be so “on trend!” Beyond, is the other side of the orangery.
And the same area today from the opposite side. On the right – the door leads to the chapel. The Orangery is lined with art treasures from the family. Lady Lansdowne said she chose this wall color because so many of the uniforms in the paintings have this shade in it.
The left side of the Orangery– it leads to the foyer to the Sculpture Gallery.
And from the House & Garden story on Bowood. Here you can see the entire Orangery, from the Adams Doors on through the four columns, to the right side of Orangery onward to the library.
The same view towards the right side of the Orangery.
Through these Robert Adams designed doors is the Lab Room, then the Library. Beautiful painting. Notice the red sash on the soldier. This was the color that Lady Lansdowne found in many of the paintings which is why she chose the reddish orange wall color.
Unfortunately, this is the only photograph I could find that shows how you enter the chapel from the Orangery. Above the double doors is a bust. Notice the trim around the door. John Fowler used this same round medallion on the stair hall that he designed for Bowood.
The Chapel! I love private Chapels. Notice how each seat has its own foot cushion – or is that for the knees? This organ was recently installed in honor of the millennium. The arched windows on the left look out to the left courtyard and on the right – to the right courtyard. The clock tower was later built above the chapel. The torcheres and railings were moved here from the Adams drawing room in the Big House when it was demolished.
The altar and organ are so beautiful. The family hold Christmas services here for guests.
The foyer between the Orangery and the Sculpture Gallery.
The Sculpture Gallery is past the Orangery.
A view at dusk of the Sculpture Gallery – with two large incredible 16th century tapestries along the back wall.
The view towards the other direction. This gallery was created in 1980 by the Marquis. Originally this was designed by Adams as a menagerie for wild animals. A leopard and an orangutan were kept here in the 18th century!!!! Through the door is the gift shop and restaurant.
Upstairs from the sculpture gallery are exhibitions of the family’s priceless collections. Among the Napoleon collection is his actual death mask in bronze - seen in the center of the showcase.
The Victorian Room houses, among other memorabilia of the period, Queen Victoria’s wedding chair, seen here.
This exhibition room shows original clothing worn by the family.
I love this aqua wallpaper and paint. The color is a perfect foil for the red/orange.
Downstairs, is the rest of the tour. At the window, more English Country Manor decor touches by Lady Lansdowne, aka Fiona Shelburne.
Past the Orangery is the laboratory room and this small room leads into the library. It was here, in this very room, that scientist Dr. Joseph Priestley, tutor to the 1st Marquess’ two sons, discovered oxygen in 1774!!! Amazing!!! In those days the room was full of scientific equipment – all sold when the 1st Marquis died.
The Lab. It overlooks the internal courtyard. A small room, with a fireplace and beautiful shelves.
The only picture of the internal courtyard. In the middle is a large fountain – with lots of roses and vines. Must be beautiful there.
Beyond the Laboratory is the Library. The decorative scheme dates back to the early 19th century, when the 3rd Marquis employed C.R.Cockerell to replace the original Adam interior. The Wedgwood ‘Etruscan’ style vases were commissioned especially for the room. The portrait above is of the 2nd Marquis. Notice the beautiful map chest behind the sofa – notice its side with green stained wood.
Roar!!! I’m not sure exactly what this animal is!? A white lion. I think!
The desk was from Napoleon’s aide de camp and was originally in Lansdowne House in London. This room holds over 5,000 books. Placed around the room are green leather chairs.
Close up of the ceiling. Notice the gilt trim.
And this photograph is from this month’s House & Garden. The view from the library into the family’s private drawing room.
From the June House & Garden: The front facade of the house – at the very right corner. This leads straight into the family’s private drawing room.
Another photo into the drawing room.
From House & Garden. This room was originally designed by John Fowler – the walls, the fabrics, and the curtains have been left as he designed them – in the 1950s!!!! Apparently, this must be when he discovered the original Bowood fabric. The current Lady – Fiona, the interior designer – had the chairs that flank the library doors recovered in the aqua damask she found at Tissus d’ Helene. Not in production, the company started making the damask again, now named Damask Shelburn. Shades of Bowood??!?!! The fabric is available through Marialinda at Tissus d’Helene HERE and it’s in several different colorways. Shelburne is misspelled though.
Just a note about the photography. Notice how he cropped in just a hint of the crown trim which shows how it ties in with the library decor. He then moved the two chairs to flank the doors and pick up the color in the lamps. Besides picking the best angle to photograph the room, with the library in the background. Now, compare this photo with the one below of the same room, taken by a non professional. It truly makes you appreciate the artistry of the pros.
A photo – not from the magazine – shows the Fowler inspired ottoman that Lady Lansdowne added. See how this photograph can not compare to the magazine’s! The same can be said for the dining room below:
From the magazine House & Garden, the dining room was styled with a Bowood tablecloth. These private rooms have never been seen before they were shown in the magazine.
Not from the magazine – what the dining room probably always looks, without the Bowood tablecloth. And compare the two photos of the same room to see exactly how artistry plays so much into photography.
And, from the House & Garden. Another room by John Fowler. This was once the dining room but Fowler turned it into the stairhall with these stone stairs. Beautiful handrail. Just so beautiful. This room really shows off Fowler’s talents. I’m surprised that photographs of this staircase haven’t been widely circulated before. And note the woodwork trim. Remember the original trim around the chapel’s door? Fowler repeated that same round detail here.
Another view of the room – looking towards the double doors that were designed by Adams and moved here. Notice the two columns on the left that were added to the room by Fowler to give the room classical detail.
Another view, not from the magazine, that shows the stairs more fully, and the paintings on the walls. The stairs are just gorgeous! That curve is perfect.
Upstairs, decorated by Lady Lansdowne – or Fiona Shelburne as she is known professionally, is a bedroom in the red Bowood fabric.
And in the bedroom, from the magazine House & Garden.
And the bathroom, classically English – see the wallpapered tub? This is a discontinued Colefax & Fowler fabric. Photograph from the new British House & Garden.
In the kitchen, Fiona gives a cooking lesson.
And then, she shows off her vegetable garden – they grow most of the fruits and vegetables used at the estate and the hotel.
Behind the house are 4 acres of walled gardens, divided by brick walls and gravel paths. Here, statues guard the main gate into the gardens from the woods out back.
Through a “secret” door is the entry into one of the gardens. Before, the walled gardens were closed to the public, but now you can arrange a tour of them, by special request. If you go, be sure to request this!!!
In the walled garden directly behind the house is the swimming pool.
Between the brick walls, there are long gravel paths that facilitate movement without actually going through the gardens.
Urns are placed at the center of the gravel paths. Beautiful climbing roses.
At this intersection, a pergola was built over the urn.
The wisteria is so pretty in bloom.
Here, a map shows the different sites to visit.
Capability Brown designed the Doric Temple as a focal point across the lake from the house.
In the woods, stairs lead to the water cascades.
The estate has many caves – to the very right you can see a large cave.
The biggest cave is called the Hermit’s Cave. Outlander fans – this would make a great cave for Jamie in Season 3!!!
The old lake house. Fiona has hinted that a new property was being readied for rentals – I wonder if this is where she was talking about? What a charming place to fix up for guests!
The Rhododendron Walk is open only during flowering season.
Robert Adams designed the mausoleum in memory of the first Marquis.
Inside, it has classical elements – with a large domed skylight.
Away from the estate house is the hotel and golf course.
The course in autumn.
The hotel is full service, and a bit intimate, with just 43 rooms.
The original garden plat by Capability Brown was enlarged and is hanging behind the reception desk.
The hotel’s decor was inspired by the estate house. Though a design firm was hired for the large job, Fiona Shelburne guided the design. The walls are filled with English prints of military cartoons.
The library is just beautiful. The portrait is of the 5th Marquis when he was Governor General of Canada. Lady Lansdowne wanted the red emphasized in the library and also in the neighboring bar.
The resemblance to the estate’s main library is evident with the green chairs and the similar layout.
Of course, the pool is indoors.
And in a most romantic nod, the guest room curtains are Bowood!
Love that there is a both a tub and shower.
Besides the hotel, there is Queenwood Lodge for rent. The lodge is an old house hidden away on the property. When the golf course was built, they had to design it around the house.
It’s obvious that the lodge was decorated by Shelburne herself. It is quintessential British design.
The restaurant will serve you here, in the lodge. Love this!
Another view of the drawing room.
And there is a study too.
Off the foyer, this dresser was outfitted with a drinks and food bar.
One of the bedrooms in stripes.
And another in stripes.
Wood casement windows add to the charm.
Sign me up!
And finally, in 2015, House & Garden featured a house decorated by Fiona Shelburne. Due to her many engagements as the Lady of Bowood Estate, she only takes on one or two clients a year. This country house was redone – blending in contemporary touches with traditional architecture:
The standout. In the stair hall, the most incredible light project by artist Rolf Sachs has been installed. The house is a classic country home owned by a young couple. Fiona mixed in contemporary art with the traditional elements.
Celery green was used in the double drawing room as a background for all the contemporary art.
Shelburne worked for Imogene Taylor at Colefax & Taylor who trained under John Fowler. Taylor taught her this truism: “I learned that you can make the most hideous curtains out of the most expensive fabric and you can make the most beautiful ones out of army blankets.” Totally agree, but I would say cheap linen instead of blankets.
The second half of the drawing room, with its huge canvas.
The dining room with Colefax & Fowler curtains and wonderful dusty pink paint.
Red painted library with Claremont curtains.
Kime fabric on chairs.
The master bedroom is classic English with a beautiful four poster.To read more about Bowood House, or to go to hotel, go HERE.
Do you like Vicente Wolf’s style? He’s having a sale HERE.