Lying low

2 December 2012
Ben Pentreath

It’s been a weekend of lying low. We had a crazy party in the Social Club on Friday night that I could have done without on Saturday morning…. do you know that hungover feeling. Oh dear.

But otherwise, quiet times. I love weekends at the Parsonage when the house is filled with people, but do you mind if I confess to loving weekends as much when I am here completely by myself? It’s quite fun being 100% antisocial. The only person I spoke to today was my best friend Val. We’ve just planned a holiday together, which is a very VERY good thing to do when it’s pouring with rain and freezing cold and gets light at 8am and dark at 3.30 in the afternoon. Eugh.

I’ve been drawing up a house I was talking about a while ago (regular readers will recall Decoration in Dreamland).  It’s a curious task, because on the one hand I’m trying to make the house seem smaller than it is, and on the other, it needs to be larger than we will be allowed by the planners to fit in everything that my clients would like. Contradictory. Anyway, at a certain moment, I wanted to take inspiration from John Nash’s Royal Lodge. Do you know about Royal Lodge? That remarkable house designed by Nash for the Prince Regent:

The building was completely destroyed by William IV, except for the conservatory; reconstructed many times, most recently in the 30s, and now lived in by that arbiter of quiet good taste (oh, okay, disagree with me if you insist) the Duke of York (and, I understand, his wife, is she still called the Duchess? Fergie will do. Perhaps, after all, the coolest member of the Royal Family there is).

Internet searches are a weird thing. Here are some of the images that pop up if you type Royal Lodge.

My god the Queen is cool. Sorry Fergie. move over.

This one is insane. King George VI, The Queen, and Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret on the lawn at Royal Lodge. Man, oh, man, I want that lawn furniture, and I want to sit in stilted poses on the lawn in suits and girls in dresses at the Old Parsonage next summer.  Returning to the bamboo ware, please let me know if you know where to find such a thing.

Here it is a little while later (excuse the tiny image, but we are really interested in bamboo deck chairs for god’s sake): the Queen Mother looking after Prince Charles and Princess Anne:

Exactly. We want that furniture. And co-ordinating blue clothes and blue-and-white-flowery-fabric-with-contrasting-piping.

Meanwhile, I am also now rather partial to the little cottage in the grounds of Royal Lodge that was gifted from the people of Wales to the young Princess Elizabeth:

And I am even more partial to taking breakfast (or is it tea?) with the Royal Family—so normal, so happy—in this handsome Conversation Piece, radically entitled Conservation Piece, Windsor by Herbert James Gunn. Perfect.

Basically, I want a good suit, I want white indoor flowers, I want to feel quite spartan and incredibly rich all at the same time, and I want to have some pale-green Gothick walls.

As I say, the internet is a weird place. Who knew?

So, my other obsession in a weekend of lying low is wallpaper. Move over, Noguchi Coffee Table. Yes, we’re onto new things in Benland and 2013 is officially going to be the year of wallpaper. 2012 got the thing going, with my gothick hallway:

(for those not yet aware, paper printed & supplied by the fantastic David Skinner from Dublin); but now it is time to go really mad. I got the idea with a client of mine in Salisbury, on Friday, whose staircase we are hoping to paper in something completely bonkers. (she still has the sample, so I cannot photograph it here, trust me, it’s mad).  But driving down on down to Dorset that afternoon, I rapidly realised that more wallpapers is what I am missing in life.

Is this what you’re missing in the Guest Bedroom? It is.

And is this what you are missing in the other guest room?

Man oh man, it is.

So, watch this space. The papers are from superb Adelphi, available in England from Claremont.  I am measuring rooms as we speak, and dreaming of where to put these, and these, and these:

Exactly. You’re right. Best, perhaps, that I don’t spend too long by myself, lying low.

24 comments on this post

Nicola Barriesays:

Hello Ben

I was just researching Jean Monro fabrics and recalled your use of one – and found this older blog. Have we ever seen your rooms after you wallpapered? If not, I’m sure we would all love to – I would! Regards, Nicola


Dear Nicola – believe me if and when that paper happens the blog will know about it!!!!


Dear Jo – I am not quite sure but I will make some enquiries and let you know. All best, Ben

Jo Stella-Sawickasays:

Hullo Ben
How does one contact Cameron Short? I think I saw his hand block printed wallpapers at the Selvedge Fair but didn’t think to take a card! Thanks

Lucinda Grantsays:

I love the cane furniture too and have inherited some lovely low chairs from my Ma – I think they belonged to my Grandparents. I am forwarding you a link to Mette Munk Plum’s website in Denmark – she does various different designs and we now have two of the long chairs in the garden (when it is warmer!) they are perfect for a lazy summer afternoon.

Margaret Powlingsays:

I’ve always loved wallpaper. As with a ‘good’ carpet, it furnishes a room. I love Colefax & Fowler’s Saltram Trellis but they no longer make this, unfortunately. We have had it in our hall for eleven years and it still looks good, I never tire of it. We chose a Cole & Son wallpaper for our kitchen – why make the place look utilitarian when we spend so much time in it? I love the papers you have shown here, there is more than a hit of Gothick in them!


What about Marthe Armitage’s papers @ Hamilton Weston or the Voysey papers being reprinted in the US?


I would love to see a photo of Saltram Trellis! And Marthe Armitage, the nicest person on the earth, or even better check out Cameron Short (you heard of him here first) who is doing an apprenticeship with Marthe and, I believe, lives near me in Dorset. and I LOVE those voysey papers, as used by the stylish boys at Fox & Flyte…

Oops. I see someone has already asked and you answered. Am going to order today,,, maybe. I Really need a slipcover. any suggestions.. Something similar to this or a beautiful paper I saw at Adelphi or the other paper firm you mentioned.They agreed that it would be beautiful in a fabric. But sorry .

I love the curtain fabric in your guest room and yes it does look great with that paper..What is the name of the fabric (manufacturer and name of print)? May I copy you?

Hi Ben, lovely papers and what is your delicious, elegant guest room fabric?


Hi Helen, that is a Jean Monro fabric, one of my all time favourites – Bowness…. total bliss


Old photos have so much character I think, and I like not only looking but taking some of the ideas and using them.
Thanks for sharing

Last month I spent a weekend at a funny little hotel in Versailles, right opposite the Palace, and they’d wallpapered the entire stairwell – all five floors – in Paul Smith’s striped paper. It was so whimsical and wonderful, and such a sorbet from the glorious excess of Versailles. Have you been to Firmdale’s new hotel, the Dorset Square near Marylebone High Street? Kit Kemp has wallpapered all the halls and stairs in the most fantastic vegetable design. It’s like a kitchen garden – carrots here; beets there. I wish I knew who designed it.


Leafing through wallpaper samples seems to have been a very good use of a quiet day. The Jeffersonian trellis seems custom made to complement your guest bedroom curtains. I hope you decide to go ahead. Having looked through the Adelphi webside its my favourite. It might even be better than Sanderson’s Vues D’Italie, which has held the top spot in my list of most wanted wallpapers for some time now.


That is also a superb paper!

I just found this further rather wonderful detail about the Gunn conversation piece, on the NPG website: ‘Gunn […] recalled the difficulty of placing the corgi, moving it about on the canvas in a paper cut-out.’ But presumably the presence of the snoozing dog was vital to the overall sense of harmonious domesticity and civilised country life.


Emile, perfect. B


Man oh man – love it. Sure you can get sales of wallpaper up.

I think that Gunn conversation piece is meant to show the royal family taking tea. I read somewhere that the tiny plain cake was meant to signal royal frugality and modesty (and indirectly, I suppose, English understatement). And of course it is a great image of that wonderful paradox, the king-as-country-gentleman, isn’t it? And of the English tea ceremony, practiced and presented with the same perfectionism and reverence as the Japanese tea ceremony 🙂

Robert Rowandsays:

You can find the bamboo furniture in Johannesburg; it was on every verandah. Madeira Cane has a factory, which used to make bespoke pieces to order.However, to obtain those period pieces, you might have to go to Westgate Walding Auctioneers, who regularly have beautiful old cane furniture from deceased estates on offer.

Robert Rowandsays:

You can find the bamboo furniture in Johannesburg; it was on every verandah. Madeira Cane has a factory, which used to make bespoke pieces to order.However, to obtain those period pieces, you might have to go to Westgate Walding Auctioneers, who regularly have beautiful old pieces from deceased estates

Jill Rowesays:

I love wallpaper myself, but so hard to put in a rental in New York!

But here is a site you should know about if you don’t already:

I love nothing more than going to her showroom and spending hours looking at the amazing vintage papers she has! Perhaps next time you are in NY…or Valentina could get you some samples!

Kind regards,



Late Friday afternoon I laid low, sitting in front of my fireplace in Connecticut, while dusk and snow fell, and read your book, which had just arrived. It was a wonderful few hours.

A portion of Adelphi sales benefit the historic preservation group Historic New England, so hooray for Adelphi!

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