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23 February 2009

Eltham Palace: A Deco Delight

While researching RR and looking for examples of Deco Greco interiors, I came across the sensationally jazzy Eltham Palace (pronounced El - tem). Located a convenient short train ride from London, this is a stately home unlike any other and well worth the trip.

Virginia and Stephen Courtauld, the swelligant couple in the portrait above with their lemur Mah-Jongg, purchased the medieval palace in the 1930s and set out to build a high style modern residence with the most up-to-date domestic technology AND conserve the remains of the 15th century Great Hall constructed by Edward IV.

Stephen was an heir to the vast family fortune based on the manufacturing of rayon and Ginie was a vivacious Italian with a tattoo of a snake on her ankle. Together they were lovers of the arts, animals, and architecture.

Upon entering the house, there is a gentlemen and ladies cloakroom to the left and right - just as if one had arrived at a trendy boite de nuit. Once visitors disposed of their sables and minks, they entered what English Heritage now calls the Entrance Hall, but Phenomenally Chic Cocktail Party Room may be a more apt description.


The Australian blackbean-veneered walls are inlaid by Swedish artist Rolf Engstromer with a Roman and Viking soldier standing sentry by the door along with with the Cortaulds' favorite buildings from across Europe. Replicas of the original round Marian Dorn carpet and furniture by Engstromer complete the swanky setting.

The dining room adjoins....

where we see the imprint of Italian decorator Peter Malacrida who invoked here the Deco Greco interior I included in RR.

Down a hallway is Stephen's handsome library....

The "Indian mahogany" paneling was ingeniously designed as vertically sliding shutters to accomodate Stephen's collection of watercolors and other topographical works.



Stephen abhorred the telephone so he made sure that this one - which only made internal calls - could be concealed.

Upstairs is Virginia's spectacular bedroom...
and her ensuite bath....
complete with gold-plated taps. The scent of gardenias - Ginie's fave - perfumed the air. Stephen's bedroom, by contrast, is much smaller and far less grand.

Jonggy's quarters are also on the second (or first floor for my British readers) floor. A bamboo ladder down to the floor below gave the Cortauld's beloved lemur freedom to move about and bamboo forest scenes were sensitively painted by a Miss G E Whinfield.

One of the highlights of the visit is the Venetian guest suite

so-called after the 1780's Venetian paneling that was incorporated into the scheme. Today it is set up as a screening room where visitors can watch delightful home movies of the Cortauld's with their friends and exotic pets.
Afterwards, enjoy the stunning gardens where you are invited to picnic, and by all means explore the gift shop which has many divinely Deco items including my favorite tea towel ever.

All photos courtesy of English Heritage

9 comments:

Toby Worthington said...

The Venetian guest suite intrigues me.
Are the panels covered in metal leaf of some sort?
And the various shapes filled with painted grotesque
designs? (as in Raphael's grotesque panels, etc)
The more I look at the room the more it seems a curiosity, but in the nicest way of course.

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

The Venetian suite is like a jewelry box, isn't it? I should first explain that the photo is upside down, and then say that 18th century paneling was fleshed out with mirrors painted with the same decoration. The Courtaulds initially installed it in their Grosvenor Place residence (which they are in in their portrait) and then moved it to Eltham. EEE

Jill said...

Fantastic post! What a cool couple. Now I need a lemur for a pet. Not a lover of tattoos, but the snake on the ankle sounds fantastic. I wish I could see a picture of it!

Wines is my word!

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Thanks, Jill - the Courtaulds are fascinating, aren't they? The home movies show Jonngy cavorting with their many dogs - really good stuff. EEE

pve design said...

My Mother-in-law gave me a "Poisin" Christian Dior snake cuff filled with (venom) I mean pefume and I had always thought if I were the type to tattoo, this snake would deserve an appendage. A finger, an ankle, high up on the arm...
A lemur, how eccentric.
pve

Easy and Elegant Life said...

Mah-Jongg was less enamoured of the Courtauld's guests apparently. I remember that he sent one to hospital with a nasty bite that festered... .

Eltham is spectacular, isn't it? Mrs. E. and I lingered far too long... we were hoping to establish squatter's rights.

Rose C'est La Vie said...

i don't know how I missed this at the time. I am ashamed to say I could easily have visited Eltham Palace by now and haven't. I almost don't need to now you have revealed what lies beyond that fabulous entrance hall. On the other hand I simply can't wait now. Love the unassuming cushions on the sofa. Like a packet of iced biscuits.

Rose C'est La Vie said...

i don't know how I missed this at the time. I am ashamed to say I could easily have visited Eltham Palace by now and haven't. I almost don't need to now you have revealed what lies beyond that fabulous entrance hall. On the other hand I simply can't wait now. Love the unassuming cushions on the sofa. Like a packet of iced biscuits.

Easy and Elegant Life said...

Rose C'est la vie, you've got to go. It really is a treat.