COTE DE TEXAS: Round and Round

Round and Round

 

Sometimes everything comes together – in a way you never expected or foresaw.  That happened to whose name I never really knew, but I was very aware of his work and his family.

Odd.

It all started with the Castle of Mey, the Queen Mother’s diminutive castle on the North Sea – at the most northern tip of Scotland.   I was studying the Castle of Mey because of the story line about it on “The Crown” and I realized that the castle had recently been updated for Prince Charles and Camilla – or the “Duke and Duchess of Rothesay” as Charles & Camilla are known in Scotland (don’t ask me why,  I mean, when I go to California, I am still known as Mrs. Benjamin Keith Webb, just like I am in Texas, but I digress.)

When looking over photographs of The Castle of Mey – I noticed it had undergone a typical Prince Charles updating, a very English Country Manor style, never fancy, but nice, and even cozy.  The designer for the renovation was noted as Baron Piers Von Westenholz, a former Olympic skier and a close friend of Prince Charles.  The name was familiar – he had also help decorate The Dumfries House for the Prince of Wales.  And more.

Dumfries House, Entry.

Prince Charles had rescued The Dumfries House in Scotland, a grand Adam-built mansion, and the Baron Piers von Westenholz was in charge of the decoration, along with David Mlinaric, whom he had started out antiquing with when they were just 13 and, later, the pair owned a shop together.

The Baron is German, of course although he is thoroughly British now.  He is also an Olympic skier and he was chosen for the Dumfries renovation in part because he is very personally close to the Prince and, he is also a very respected antiquarian and designer in Britain.   British House and Garden named him to their list of the top 100 designers.

Piers von Westenholz has had several large sales at Christie’s – sharing the bill with his former business partner, the iconic Robert Kime, who says of him  “When I buy something, I always ask myself the question that Piers von Westenholz used to ask when we ran a shop together: ‘If it doesn’t sell, could I look at it forever?’” 

I didn’t realize at the time that von Westenholz was behind one of my favorite Parisian apartments shown a few years ago in Elle Decor.  Owned by von Westenholz’s friend – the apartment was a collaboration between Piers and designer Francois-Joseph Graf.  The luscious photos grace Westenholz Antiques’ website HERE.

The apartment is filled with fabulous antiques and a large collection of books and paintings.  Westenholz said he would happily live in the apartment himself and that he wished he still owned the furnishings himself.  “I wish I had them – and he didn’t.” 

The entrance to the first floor apartment.   This map of Havana is the oldest known in the world.  Is this not fabulous?  The scale is incredible.  The long Irish table was on display at The Great Exhibition of 1851.

 

 

The Library.  There are a number of libraries found throughout the apartment.  The lamps are just the best!!

 

The sitting room is filled with a collection of Mexican paintings depicting mixed-race families.  I love how he took the color of the fabrics from the paintings.   Again, the scale is remarkable.  Oh…this is just wonderful.

                 

The dining room with a large Irish cabinet.

 

The sitting room with a collection of prints.

 

The office, another library!  Gorgeous Farrow & Ball Suffield Green paint on the walls.  What I love about this apartment is the scale of the furnishings and the collections of art work.  Most rooms show walls full of sets of prints or oils.  I’ve been obsessed with this apartment ever since it was published.  At that time, Graf received most of the attention for this apartment.  It didn’t occur to me that the credited antique dealer Westenholz was the same person who was in charge of the restoration of The Dumfries House.

Then there was Tyringham Hall.

 

Built in 1797 by Sir John Soane, the house made news in England when it didn’t sell after being on the market for quite a while.   With gardens designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, it is called, by some, the Prettiest House in England.

Inside, the interiors were designed by Baron Piers von Westenholz.  Again, the design is noted for the large scale of the furnishings, art work, and antiques.

 

Another view of the drawing room.

 

And then….

…there was this.  A wedding.  It was the wedding of the year, 2013, and social media went crazy.  One paper called it "possibly the most fashionable wedding ever."

 

The custom designed Chanel dress was to die for.  There were 11 changes for the bride during wedding weekend.

 

The bride was Caroline Sieber.  The wedding took place in Vienna at Michaelskirche, one of the city’s oldest churches.  The flowers were gorgeous.

 

The reception was here.  Palais Pallavicini.

 

Caroline is an Austrian who lives in London and is a celebrity fashion stylist, along with being a Chanel Ambassador, one of only five lucky ones.  Does the Prime Minister nominate the Chanel Ambassador?!?  Is it a title you hold for life?  If so, sign me up!

And the Groom?   Fritz von Westenholz, the son of Piers, the antiquarian/designer.   While the elder Baron Piers was forever the famous one – known for his numerous marriages (four) and even more love affairs, as well as his career and his friendship with Prince Charles,  the torch is now passing on to his son and his wife Carolyn.

Today, the Baron is known simply as “Fritz’s father.”

Again, when I was drooling over the photos of the Parisian apartment in Elle Decor decorated by the Baron, I didn’t realize its connection with the Wedding of the Year.

Later, after the newlyweds settled down in Notting Hill and had a baby girl, Vogue took photos.  Yes.  THOSE photos.

 

This picture of their newly renovated townhouse went viral.  Social media exploded.  The Zuber paper was custom created and apparently cost a fortune.   I’ve always wondered, though – do you think the painted florals should have been continued a bit higher up on the paper?  They have always looked short to me, as if it was a mistake?  

The pink settee was found in a barn on Pier’s farm.  It was meant to go in Caroline’s basement closet but it didn’t fit through the doorway.  Instead, it landed here in the drawing room.

Caroline designed the house herself, without help from her father in law Piers or husband. 

Caroline and Fritz’s library/dining room is off the kitchen.  Love this space.

 

The kitchen overlooks the courtyard.   The coffee cups feature portraits of the Austrian Empress Elisabeth from whom Caroline based her wedding dress design on!

 

The stair runner is hot pink, but is called “red” to keep her husband calm.  What is really interesting (to me) is apparently Caroline loves hardwood floors and he loves carpets with rugs layered over it, even in the bathroom.   She says this is unacceptable!  “I’m Austrian!  It’s unhygienic to have carpet in the bathroom!!”  I couldn’t agree more!!

Apparently Fritz now agrees with her.

And there is this.  An older photo of a blue bathroom in the Baron’s house shows his bathroom WITH carpet in it!!  Too funny!!!  But do notice all the framed prints in the bathroom.

This bathroom was designed by Piers decades ago.  The blue paint does make it look trendy for today.

 

The basement level is Caroline’s main closet.  She has so many clothes, they need their own floor.  The overflow is vacuum packed and sent to her bachelor apartment, which she kept for this purpose.  Sigh.  All Chanel too.  Double sigh.

 

An IG photo of the bedroom…with the same wallpaper as the downstairs!  That was a huge surprise.  It looks like this was taken in the reflection of a mirror which accounts for all the black dots.  Wish we could see more of the room.

 

The master bathroom was inspired by the Duke of Windsor’s Parisian bathroom AND her parent’s own bathroom in their home in Vienna.

 

I”m obsessed with her sink which she posted in an IG.  It’s a Thomas Crapper which is really a funny name but now makes sense where that noun for a toilet came from!!!!!   But they make beautiful items.  I especially love the stopper, the vent holes, and the brand name.

HERE.

Caroline is no stranger to fine houses.  She grew up in Vienna, in one wing of this palace in Vienna:

 

Vienna’s Palais Schwarzenberg.   Later her family moved to a house with one of the most romantic histories in the city.

 

Above is the Arch Duke Franz Joseph I of Austria with his mistress, the actress Katharina Schratt.  The couple were together for 34 years, though their relationship was platonic.  She lived in a prominent house he bought for her and it is this house that Caroline and her parents live in!!

 

An earlier photo of Villa Schratt.   Later, the new owners had added a curved glassed-in room on the second floor that follows the curve of the wall – see below:

Today.   Villa Schraff lies on a prominent corner.  It is painted a beautiful pale yellow, with accents of black seen in the urns and gate.  In the center – you can see the glass enclosure that was recently added.  The house is U shaped with a large courtyard in the middle.   I wish the photo was taken in the spring or summer!!

   

An earlier photo before the renovation of the center courtyard.  Over the years, the house was built up into a U when new wings were erected.   The statue was installed by the Emperor’s mistress and it remains there to this day.

Today.  Here, Caroline posted this photo on her IG of the house covered in a new snow fall.  So pretty!!   

A few days before the wedding of the year, the dress arrives to the courtyard in Vienna.  

Past the courtyard is the large lawn in back of the house.  This is the Italianate sculpture placed by Katharina Schratt, Franz Joseph’s mistress.

 

Caroline Sieber’s evening wedding dress, worn for the formal party – on the night of her wedding. 

 

The courtyard in spring, as seen in Vogue.   Yellow silk curtains peek out from the drawing room.

 

Off the courtyard in one of the long wings, the entrance doubles as an orangery.

 

The bride dresses for the wedding at home in a room off the orangery. 

 

The original plasterwork, parquet floors and porcelain stove were all restored by the Siebers when they bought the house.  This type of decorated parquet floors are found in Austria.

 

From CS’s IG, another photo of the formal living room showing the settee from the same set as the chairs.  In the Vogue article she said her mother frowned upon her Notting Hill comfortable sofas.  What she might mean is she likes antique settees instead of big comfy couches.

 

Czar Nicholas II gifted this set of antique dishes which were inlaid in the dining room’s incredibly gorgeous mantel.   At the top of the photo, you can see the crystal’s hanging down from the chandelier.  Wish there were more photos of this room!

 

And the romance doesn’t stop there.  Remember her custom made Chanel wedding dress, designed by Karl himself, just for her?

 

Here Caroline poses in the Schloss Gutenstein where the evening wedding party was held.   Two hundred wedding guests were bused a few hours outside Vienna for the night festivities that lasted until daylight.

 

Caroline’s Chanel wedding dress was inspired by this Worth confection seen here in the famous Winterhalter portrait of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, aka Sisi.

Sisi was married to the Emperor Franz Joseph who bought the house for his mistress where Caroline and her family now live!  Of course Caroline would want her wedding dress to look just like Sisi’s

Apparently all young girls in Austria love Sisi for her beautiful appearance.  Her life has been glamorized in movies, which Austrian girls adore. But there is a dark side to Empress Elisabeth’s story. 

Sisi was one of the more tragic women in royal history.  She was obsessed with her looks, weight and skin and refused to be painted or have a photograph taken of her after she turned 30.   She wanted to be remembered as a young beauty.  She would wrap her body in hot towels at night with her face hidden in a silk mask stuffed with veal (!) along with many other types of “beauty treatments.”  Her young heir to the throne committed suicide after he had first murdered his lover in what was the greatest scandal of its time.  In the end, Elisabeth herself was assassinated.   Tragic, to be sure, but her lovely face lives on in these paintings.

Elisabeth was also very vain about her long curly hair which she would wrap and tie around her waist.

She does look very beautiful…but was she this pretty in real life?  Artists tend to exaggerate their royal subjects when painting them.

In this rare photograph, Sisi does look just as beautiful as her paintings.

Vogue Magazine showed not only Caroline and Fritz’s Notting Hill house in London along with her parents house in Vienna, they also visited Fritz’s father’s farm – Bower Farm in Hertfordshire, owned by the Baron Piers von Westenholz. 

At the time, I just didn’t pay any attention to Fritz’s father.  I didn’t realize he was the man behind The Dumfries House restoration, nor all the Christie’s sales shared with Robert Kime.  Nor the wedding.  I was just bowled over by Caroline’s style and her wedding dress and her wallpaper.

 

Barrow Farm:

The Baron’s estate, Barrow Farm, is named for the ancient Anglo-Saxon burial site located on the property.

Two rows of double lines of pleached lime trees stand in the front yard.

 

The Baron’s study stands in an English rose garden.  

 

Westenholz Antiques is now run by appointment only from Barrow Farm.

Baron Piers von Westenholz’s father gave him this farm in Hertfordshire when he first married at 18.   The house has been extended over the years and today it has a U shape with a center courtyard.

Piers started decorating in the 1960s with his friend David Mlinaric, another upper crust designer.  He has owned several antique shops – some with partner Robert Kime, some with Mlinaric, some alone.  Another designer he worked closely with is Christopher Gibbs.  Piers only takes on a few design jobs a year.

  

The front entry of his farmhouse has a large statue of William Shakespeare on an octagon shaped table.  It reminds me so much of the statue of the bard found at Wilton House.  Remember it?

Apparently there are quite a few of these statues of Shakespeare leaning on a pedestal of books.

   

Another earlier view taken of the entry hall with its striped curtains.

 

On another wall of the entry – this photo was taken from Christie’s catalogue of Piers and Kime’s auction.

 

Huge Irish Elk Horns star in this sitting room with a leather covered fender.  Piers is obviously a more-is-more kind of a designer.  It’s hard to say for certain, but I do wonder if this is also located in the entry hall.  The ceiling and carpets seem to be the same room.   

 

Another view of the same room with the marble fireplace.  Those horns are incredible!!   How in the world does the elk keep his head erect?!?!?

 

 

A sitting room off the kitchen with a red striped drugget carpet, chintz curtains and an array of Christmas cards.  

Another view of the sitting room with the settee covered in the same chintz.   I love all the gilt framed prints.

 

And, the same room’s fireplace with its ottoman piled high with design magazines.   

 

This sitting room has doors on each side, which I’m thinking most rooms in the house do.  The two wings of the house are probably just one room deep like this sitting room.  More horns and the Baron sure likes to hold on to each card he ever received!! 

 

Looking towards the same view – out the door to the fields.   The Baron likes taxidermy and Victorian specimens in cases.   If you are interested in them too, be sure to check out his web site HERE.  In this room, seagrass and a rug is layered over a rustic wood floor. 

 

And, looking at the other side of the room out the second door. 

 

Caroline posed one night in this same sitting room for Vogue Magazine.

Piers von Westenholz loves houses and enjoys designing interiors.   David Mlinaric said of him:  “He opened his shop more than 40 years ago and since then he has continuously… filled it with beautiful and unexpected furniture and objects. There is always something there, which one wants; even if one doesn’t need it, and one can see the individuality of his eyes in every single object. From the very early days, his choices seemed unusual and therefore exciting. Sometimes there were objects of very high quality destined for collectors or museums, always a large stock of elegant pieces for furnishing houses and usually a bargain or two.”

The Baron with his two daughters:

After the wedding of the year between his son Felix and Caroline, the Baron’s daughter Victoria was also married.  Shown standing here next to his second daughter Violet, there were many rumors that Prince Harry might marry Victoria herself.  They are life long friends who were seen on numerous ski trips and other social jaunts.  In the end, it was not to be and Victoria married another.

And so, you are probably wondering…why did I even think about Piers von Wendenholz NOW?  What made me think of him and his son and the wedding and their houses in Notting Hill and Vienna?  After all, I have been immersed in writing about The Crown’s set locations. 

Ah….

The Crown! 

 When I was researching scenes from the Crown, I happened upon the name Baron Piers von Westenholz and it started bothering me.  I KNOW that name!  How do I KNOW that name?!?   A quick google search turned up that Westenholz had designed The Dumfries House with Prince Charles…ah.  That’s it!   And that he had shared a few auctions with Roger Kime at Christie’s.   Right!  I remember that now!   And didn’t the Baron play some part in a long ago lovers triangle that involved close friends of Charles and Diana’s?  Yes, there was that.   And then,  yes…his son was now all grown up, and had been married in that fabulous wedding in Vienna – the one that Vogue had covered.  Wait?  That was HIS son?  That means the house, with the gorgeous Zuber wallpaper and pink velvet sofa was also related to the Baron?   You know that iconic photo that went around the world of social media a few times and then back again:

Caroline’s famous living room.

While I was researching scenes from The Crown one of the sweetest stories was about the Scottish Highlands and the Queen Mother’s Castle of Mey.

 

After her husband, the King, died of lung cancer, The Queen Mum went to visit friends at Caithness in the Scottish Highlands – at the northern most tip of Britain.  The area is so remote it is a four-to-five hour drive from the royal castle, Balmoral, which is already quite isolated. 

The Queen Mum and her friends happened upon the Castle of Mey, which at that time was quite dilapidated and was due to be torn down.   When she learned of its fate, she said:   "Never! It's part of Scotland's heritage. I'll save it."  The owner anxiously agreed to sell the small castle to the Queen Mother for just 100 pounds.  It would be the only house she ever personally owned and she took great pride in it.     She wrote to her treasurer to be sure she could afford its much needed repairs:

The Queen Mum:  “It might be rather fun to have a small house so far away - the air is lovely, and one looks at Orkney from the drawing room.  The only sad thing is that part of the roof was blown off in the great gale last January and I shall have to put in electric light of course.  The grid runs past the door luckily. Do you think me mad?”

Later, she worried more about the money needed to renovate: 

“I am so grateful for all the trouble you are taking & for the thought you have given to the many problems…I don't think that Mey will be very heavy - one must spread it out, and anyway I am praying for that.  So let's hope for the best.  Perhaps an old person will leave me a million, what fun we'd have!"

Well, well, well.   If the Queen Mother of England is looking to win a million $$ lottery, I don’t feel so bad!!  This really made me laugh!!!

It took over two years to get the Castle of Mey inhabitable after which the Queen would come each August for three weeks to stay and then again in October after leaving Birkhall for the summer.   At Mey, she also created a series of walled gardens filled with her favorite rose – the Albertine.   The Queen Mother was known as being extravagant and was in debt for millions of pounds when she died.  But, apparently, she could also be quite frugal.   She had a collection of six Burberry raincoats that she kept at the Castle of Mey and which were never updated through all of the decades she lived there.  Neither was the refrigerator ever updated – it has lasted over 65 years and is still in use today.  She even refused to buy a television and instead rented one, along with a VCR, for the three weeks she was in residence.  

After the Queen Mum passed away, the house was opened to visitors.  The Prince of Wales comes to stay for 10 days each summer with his wife Camilla. A few years ago the Castle of Mey was quietly offered to guests for long weekend visits – at an exorbitant fee. 

This is the first time an English Royal Castle has been available to rent.  It comes with an all expenses paid package, including transportation costs to and from the airport, butler service, chefs, wine, stalking, salmon fishing and long walks.  The cost is around 50,000 pounds and you must be invited by personal invitation.   Most of the staff of 20 is flown in from London.  The trip is for 10 to 12 guests – so that brings the cost down to around 5,000 pounds a person.  Much better!  

 

While the Queen Mother had completely restored the castle in the 1950s, little had been done to keep it updated through the years.  All that is now changed, due to a $250,000  makeover.  All of the 96 windows had to be replaced and renewed at a cost of 197,000 pounds!  A friend of Prince Charles, a Saudi-born businessman, has donated much of the pounds to pay for the restoration and redecoration.

When the Queen Mum moved into the castle, it was furnished with pieces of antiques here and there.   Over the years, it remained exactly the same and at some point – the rugs became threadbare and the curtains were moth eaten.  Once, her assistant reported that the curtains were hanging in shreds – and the Queen sweetly smiled and said “they can last another year or two!”

When it was decided to open the castle to paying weekend guests – they could no longer deny the truth.  The house was leaking and moldy and the furnishings needed a serious update.  Since Prince Charles aka the Duke of Rothesay was in charge of the house – who should he hire to refresh the house?

Guess!

The Baron Piers von Westenholz that’s who!!!  Of course!  When reading about the Castle of Mey and seeing the Baron’s name attached to it  – it just was such a coincidence.    The Baron’s name seems to be everywhere these days!

Right after she restored the castle, a young Queen poses in front of it.  Today the front of the castle is landscaped and the grounds are much prettier.

 

And of course, there was an outdoors picnic in the freezing cold!

 

An aerial view shows the enclosed gardens to the left of the castle.  The back side of the castle is a large courtyard which you can see here.

 

An original view of the Castle.  You can see the main tower at the right with 4 floors and the section to the left with four windows across.  The door opens to the second level through outdoor stairs.

 

In 1819 this plan was proposed for an addition to the castle.  While the front door and interior entry was added in the 19 century – this proposed plan doesn’t quite match the façade today.

 

The front façade today.  You can see the different times the castle was added onto by the color of the stone and the cut of stone used.  The original tower is to the right.  The front door addition is from the 19th century.  The section to the far left is from the 1950s – added onto it by the Queen Mum – it’s the dining room. 

 

The side of the castle.  At the very right is the side view of the front porch.  The two arched windows here on the second floor – are the dining room added on by the Queen.  At the very, very left – the portion with the pitched roof – is another room added on by the Queen.

 

The back side of the castle.  You can see how the castle isn’t really all that big.  The entire back side is a large courtyard that overlooks the sea.   And this really confounds me.  Why didn’t the Queen make this courtyard another walled garden??  It would be so beautiful, instead of looking so desolate?

 

This shows the floor plan and the stages the building was added on to.  The black outlines are the older parts from the 16th century.  The wing in the back of the castle was added during the 17th century.  The front porch/foyer was added in the 19th century.  And the portion to the very left most part of the castle was added by the Queen Mother in the 1950s.

 

Because the sea winds are so strong, the Queen Mother created a walled garden to protect the flowers and plants.   The large gardens are located off to the left of the castle.

 

In the 50’s the Queen Mum sits in the walled garden.

 

And in the later part of her life, she recreates that same photograph.  Not sure if she did this on purpose or not?

 

Another view of the garden taken from the turret at the back of the wall – in the background is the sea.

 

The path back to the castle.

 

View of the Orkney Islands from Castle of Mey.

 

 Here the Queen Mother shows off her own famous Orkney chair during a Bonhams Valuation Day held at The Castle of Mey.  This is a sort of Antique Roadshow program.

 

          Ready to go inside the Castle of Mey and see what changes the Baron made here?  Turquoise benches and gates are found throughout the estate.    The row of arched windows over the front door open to the large, double height ceiling.

       

The lanterns flanking the front door – with the Queen’s cypher.

 

The floor plan with the rooms labeled.  Notice the spiral stairs that led to the Queen’s bedroom.  The last time she visited the castle she was 101 years old – and she slept in her bedroom – climbing up and down the stairs!!   The sitting room was on the lower floor.

 

       

The entrance was added onto the house in the 19th century.  Previously the stairs were outside the house.  Now the double stone steps to the main floor are enclosed in the entry hall.   The Orkney chair sits by the front door.  At the right is a table filled with mementoes of the Queen Mum.

 

  The front table filled with seasells collected by the Queen Mum and some of her favorite photos, including one of the corgis’ favorite meals!?!?

 

BEFORE:   The double stone stairs that lead to the main floor.  A collection of blackamoors is set throughout the stair landing.  Sorry the photos are all marked up!!

Now, let’s see the subtle changes the Baron made:

Today:  Piers added a tartan runner which makes all the difference in the foyer!  Love it!!   This just shows how a small change can make a huge difference!

 

Today:  Close up of the antique blackamoor planter.  Piers added lamps with green silk shades to the landing – the green picks up the color in the tartan runner and the portraits.

 

Before:  The landing was a bit disorganized and cluttered.

Before:  Another view of the landing.  Decades ago we would buy these squares at Pier One.  Did you?

 

The only photo I could find that shows the entry with its tall ceiling and large arched windows above the front door.

 

And today – with the beautiful antique lamps and their green silk shades.   Piers moved these lamps from the library and gave them their new shades. Tourists aren’t allowed to take photos inside, but a few have anyway.  This is why there aren’t very many photos of the new restoration by Piers von Westenholz.  Again, small changes make big differences.

The portraits in the entry are a collection that the Queen Mother amassed – they represent the original family that owned the castle – the Caithness family.  These portraits show the 12th, 13th, and 14th Earls.

 

Before:  The drawing room. It was originally decorated in yellow fabrics.   The rug was a gift from Queen Elizabeth to her mother on the occasion of her 90th birthday.  I wonder how that came about?  “Mom, what do you want for your 90th birthday?”  “Well, darling, I could use a new rug up at the castle.  The old one is moth eaten now.”  “Ooh, mother!!!!  How did you let that happen?!?!  You need to keep up with your housekeeping!!!”  

 

Another important element in the drawing room is the large, striking tapestry hanging behind the sofa.  The tapestry is from the 1590s and is 16’ x 10’.  The Queen Mother bought the tapestry before she even owned the castle but remarkably the tapestry fit the wall – perfectly.  No one knew the origin of the tapestry or the town it represented – but it’s mystery was finally revealed.  The medieval city depicted in the tapestry was spotted by one of the castle’s guides who was on a tour and she recognized its distinctive wooden tower and tall spire. In the center of the tapestry is the Church of St. Martin of Tours.  The Broel Towers was also recognized.

 

Before the entry hall was added onto the house with the internal stairs – the drawing room was actually the great hall that you would enter into first.

 

The drawing room leads into the dining room.  You can see how the furnishings needed updating before it could be rented out.  The curtains and all the upholstery were original and had been here since the 1950s.

 

From a book – this is an earlier photo which shows how the yellow chairs were trimmed and the curtains were once quite attractive.   French chairs in the foreground.   The antique desk is quite beautiful.

 

Connecting to the drawing room on the right is the Equerry’s Room, which the Queen Mum used as an office.  The dining room opens on the other side of the drawing room.

 

The view toward the back courtyard.  In the corner was the all important portable bar!  Love that!

 

And Today:  Here is how Piers von Westenholz redecorated the drawing room – using mostly what was already in the house.  Of course the tapestry and rug remained, as did the beautiful antique drop leaf desk.  New blue and white flowered curtains were made and a new long banquette in cream with trim was added.  I think it’s possible the banquette is really the sofa – just with the arms removed.  Chairs were recovered in cream slips.  There is also new ottoman in front of the fireplace.  A chaise in yellow was also added.

I wish there were more photos of the new decor!   But the new fabrics in the upholstery and the curtains make it all look fresh and clean.  Perfect for guests.

 

For the maids and waiters.

 

Next to the drawing room is the dining room which was first added onto the house in the 1800s.  In the 1950s, the Queen expanded the room and changed it from billiards to the dining room.  Sorry the pictures are not better!  I tried to find some without markings.  The figure in the back wore a variety of uniforms and clothes.  The yellow plates look like they depict views of the castle.  The landscapes were painted by Prince Philip.  Behind the dining room is the butler’s pantry where steps lead down to the kitchen in the basement.

 

 

These beautifully arched windows overlook the walled garden. 

 

The fireplace has a bronze fire back, with the Queen’s cypher.

 

The tapestry is of the Queen Mother’s coat of arms, custom made for her in Edinburgh in the 1950s.

 

Next to the drawing room is the Equerry’s Room.  All castles seem to have one of these rooms and I’m not quite sure what it is?  The curtains match the drawing room.  Today – their new curtains also match!!

 

Through the door is the library.  The queen made cups of tea in her peat fire!

 

AND Today – a view of the new decor by Baron Piers von Westenholz.  The blue and white curtains are the same fabric that is now in the drawing room.  The chair has a fab white cotton slipcover while the desk chair is hot pink velvet – love!

I love that blue and white fabric. 

 

Today:  The accessories have been tidied up a bit by Westenholz.   Wish this tourist had taken more pictures!!! 

 

The library is off the Equerry’s room and it was here the Queen wrote letters and watched her rented TV at night. 

 

Another view of the room, before.  The portrait above the fireplace is of the Queen as a young woman.  She was so beautiful.  Notice the lamps that are now in the landing with green silk shades were once in here.

 

Against the back wall is this French bench with an original map of the area above it.

 

AND today!!!   The sofa and chairs and curtains now wear a new floral green fabric!!!  The fabric is actually slips, which is so English.  The maps on the wall are newly added here, and the pillows were moved to other areas.  But the room still looks much as it was during the Queen’s time there.

 

Today:   Her wardrobe is filled with examples of the Queen clothes.   It looks like she was so tiny!  A beautiful Oriental screen blocks the window instead of curtains.

 

The kitchen is in the basement, with the famous original refrigerator that has lasted since the 1950s.

 

Stocked with lots of champagne, of course!

 

The door to the kitchen leads to the enclosed courtyard – and is where the original front door to the 15th century castle was. 

Again, I do wonder why the Queen never created a garden in this walled courtyard?

 

The Queen’s bedroom – is located up a set of spiral stairs from the library.  You can only peek in – and guests aren’t allowed to stay in the room.  This is Before pictures.  No new ones!

 

Her room had three views – east, south, and north.  It also had the only ensuite bathroom.  Here, the housekeeper gets it ready for visitors.

 

Down the stairs is the Queen’s sitting room with floral slipcovers and velvet pillows and chair. I would love to see what the Baron did with this room!   I do like the original decor though.  It just needed updating. 

 

An original view of Princess Margaret’s room – with its early Laura Ashley decor and beautiful views.

 

Today:  her bedroom looks like this with updated curtains and fabrics.

 

In the old magazine – they showed this bedroom named for her friend Lady Doris Vyner whom the Queen stayed with when she first discovered the castle.  This room was so pretty!

 

Today:  the room looks like this.  It looks like it was freshened up with some new fabric and hangings.

 

The Queen hosted a cruise on the old royal yacht Britannia around the Scottish Isles.  The entire family stopped at the Castle of Mey where Prince Charles gave a dinner party.  Apparently, this was done many times when then Queen Mother lived there.  Princess Margaret would sleep on the yacht instead of in her “bedroom.”   In the library – there is a grocery list asking for lemons when the Britannia came.

 

On the coast outside the castle – the Prince met up with scientists who have a company that makes the seaweed into an edible food!!!!  Here, he is hiking back after his meeting.

 

And, just like at the Balmoral Highland Games, where the Queen and Charles are always caught laughing hysterically – here, is the Prince at the Mey Highland Games, laughing.  I wonder what is so funny about those games?!?!?  In every picture he is always hysterical!!!  Look at that face!

 

Here, on another year – he and Camilla are hysterically laughing at the Mey Highland Games.

 

And so – I hope you have enjoyed this long circular story – about Dumfries House and Baron Piers von Westenholz and his son’s world famous fantastic marriage to Caroline Sieber and their Notting Hill townhouse in Vogue along with her parent’s house in Vienna where Franz Joseph’s famous actress mistress once lived and the Baron’s estate Barrow Farm to the location of the Crown’s Castle of Mey scenes – to the restoration of the Castle of Mey’s interiors by….

Baron Piers von Westenholz of whom it was said:  Despite the grandeur of his interiors, Westenholz says ‘simplicity and comfort’ remain his watchwords.

Whew!!!!!

 

And:

In honor of the chinoiserie Blackamoors seen at Castle Mey,

a sale of vintage chinoiserie HERE!

And other antique and vintage items:

on sale HERE.

31 comments :

  1. Another fantastic post linking history and current events.
    My favorite interiors are the Paris apartment, followed by Tyringham.
    I wish you had a Pinterest button so I could save some of these. It is so much easier to say "Like THIS" to my husband. It seems that whenever I am trying to explain something to him, I never have an example at my fingertips! And searching never turns up what you want, compared to collecting examples as they happen to come along. (I do have the Pinterest plug-in, but it gives me only the first photo of the post. I end up using Bloglovin' to save the entire post, but it's nice to have the precise photo/example.)

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    1. Don't I have a Pinterest save on each photo ? Let me check.

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    2. Yes. If you highlight the photo the Pinterest button will show up
      And you can save it. I think that is what you mean ?

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  2. I'm now 25 minutes late for an appointment: I intended just to glance at this post before leaving and found myself drawn in, unable to leave it for my return! Thank you for the considerable research and delightful commentary-- Joni, you excel at this format. I agree, more pictures needed, perhaps a later post?

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  3. Joni - thank you for connecting the dots! Don't you just love having that AHA moment when it all comes together? I hope all your readers recognize the enormous amount of time and effort in researching involved!

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    1. I just hope you all enjoy it. It was so weird to me when it all
      Came together. The empress to the castle of mey Who
      Knew?!!!

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  4. This gives an entirely new meaning to " Lie Back and Think of England!!!" You have no idea how many times I *sighed*...franki

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    1. Normally I think of the gorgeous young guy that works in the produce department at Safeway but, well, okay...
      Sheila

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    2. Love this comment - and the whole post! Dreamy.

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  5. Joni, have you ever been to Great Britain? If anyone has ever deserved to go - it's you! I've told you before, you need to write a book or teach at university. Then you can build your own castle - in Texas! Thank you, Joni!

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  6. This is probably one of the absolute best posts you've ever done Joni. Seriously, the connections. I think this is your book: 6 Degrees of Decorating history. Each chapter telling a different story like the one above. Design is full of these types of stories - Hutton Wilkinson told some when I heard him speak a few months ago. Brava on this post my friend!

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    1. Aw! Thanks Linda!! I couldn't get away from this man!!!

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  7. Once again a fantastic romp through history highlighting design and architecture. You are the best.

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  8. This is one of your best posts! So fun to read and so much to take in. I could not stop reading this. Thank you! And I agree with another comment- you should be writing books. Nobody puts as much detail into blog posts as you. Thank you!

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  9. This is one of your best posts! So fun to read and so much to take in. I could not stop reading this. And I agree with another comment- you should be writing books. Nobody puts as much detail into blog posts as you. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks!!!!! I was worried no one would even like it!

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  10. If your relationship is "platonic" then are you still called a mistress?
    {"I did not have sex with that woman."
    Louise, pleeze, girl!
    Sheila

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    1. I thought it was so weird too. Like, how did they know ????

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    2. Not sure if it was completely platonic or not, but it wouldn't be surprising. Franz Joseph adored Sisi all his life. But she was never really happy in the formality and strict rules of the Austrian court - having grown up as a princess in the Bavarian court (cousin and great friend of Mad King Ludwig) in a much more relaxed happy setting. She found the Austrian Court, watched over by her disapproving mother-in-law, intimidating and alarming. Her one feature that was generally admired and approved was her beauty so it's no wonder that she became obsessed with her looks. In fact it was her older sister Nene who was supposed to marry Franz Joseph. Sisi was only 15 or 16 and accompanied her parents and older sister to the planned betrothal. Unfortunately for her sister, FJ fell head over heels in love with the high spirited young beauty and decided to marry her instead. Her quieter more sedate sister would have been more suited to the exigencies of court life there. But FJ would brook no opposition and swept up Sisi - who is believed to have been reluctant because she didn't want to hurt her sister. So, another reason for her obsession with her appearance - she knew her husband had fallen for her because of her beauty. It seems that while she loved him it was never with the same passion that he had for her. He was also a workaholic and dedicated almost all his time to his duties as Emperor. But she did care about his happiness and when she felt she had to get away from the court (she was a great traveller) she found a mistress/companion for her husband. Her life at court had been made even more difficult as her mother-in-law took over her daughters as babies - she thought Sisi was too young to be responsible for her children. She was also attacked by her mother-in-law because to begin with her only children were girls. One of the girls died and Sisi was heart broken. She seems to have suffered from depression for much of her life, even before the death of her son.
      Her husband was devastated by Sisi's death. He seems to have believed that in her life she had done nothing but good and couldn't understand why she had met such a death. It was a strange death too. The assassin had gone to Geneva to kill a member of the French royal family but he was frustrated in this because the man left early. Unfortunately for Sisi a local newspaper published her name and picture (she usually travelled incognito) so the nihilist assassin found another target - he thus knew her departure plans and went to the quay where the lake steamer was to leave. He rushed at her and stabbed her with a sharpened file. No-one at first realised what had happened and she boarded the ferry with her lady in waiting only to die shortly afterwards.
      Sisi is rather like Princess Diana in Austria - a tragic beautiful princess (in fact she may also have suffered from bulimia/anorexia) - she's much loved and admired. It would be heresy to say anything critical of her. When visiting Vienna we usually stay in the Hotel Konigin Elisabeth, named after her. There are large portraits of Sisi and her husband.
      I wonder whether Caroline Sieber is nicknamed for Sisi? Her Goyard bag has the initials SdeW not CdeW.

      Wonderful post Joni. Loved the pictures too. Best wishes, Pamela

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  11. I agree with all the other comments - one of your best posts and possibly my favorite ever! And I'm not even an Anglophile! So much beauty and history from beginning to end. Thank you so much for this, Joni.

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  12. Wonderful, wonderful post! Thanks for such amazing research- Love European interiors!!

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  13. This post was wonderful. I can't wait to sit down and read it again on my computer (instead of my phone). Thank you for the time and effort you put into it! I've already found myself googling pars of it to learn even more (like the Adams style of architecture).

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  14. An equerry is usually a person entrusted with the stables of one of the royals. However, a queen's equerry is more like we in the USA would think of as a personal assistant. Someone who sees to her everyday needs and thus, needs to be close by. Hence, the equerry's room. Separate, but close enough to come when called.
    Charles and Camilla are addressed by the title they hold in the country they happen to occupy at the time. Thus, in Scotland, they are addressed by their Scot titles, in Ireland their Irish titles, in Wales, etc., etc. Each royal holds multiple titles.
    Yes, Thomas Crapper did design the flushing toilet, known as the Crapper. Our modern day slang word "crap" evolved from there.
    English rooms like these are not really updated. They are, as you so aptly put it, "refreshed." The English say, "This room has just been done up" after it has been redecorated.
    Many of the images you posted are so familiar to me via Pinterest, but it really adds another dimension to see them in context with the story of the owners and their houses.
    Those floor plans of Castle Mey are a wonderful touch to a really well researched and entertaining post. Well done, Joni!

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    1. Thank you for all the information! The Crapper - wow. haha! Thanks for the info on the Equerry, etc. You must be English!!

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  15. Please never stop blogging! Loved this and all your long researched posts. Thank you.

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  16. Wonderful post, like everyone else I could not stop reading. Amazing pictures, so much research.

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  17. When I saw this I immediately thought of you. A cool video? gif? that shows the change in Queen Elizabeth's appearance on British currency:

    https://twitter.com/spectatorindex/status/828806671409352704

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  19. What a very good read. The pictures are wonderful
    I love reading about the Queen Mother and Elizabeth

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  20. Wonderful as usual. Thanks Joni.

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