The Art of Interior Decoration

8 February 2016
Ben Pentreath

I’ll be honest. If you asked me on most Sunday mornings, I never have a clue what I’m going to blog about that evening (well, in fact, it’s early Monday morning as I write). But it’s curious how something amazing always turns up.P1070376

This weekend was no exception. Charlie and I were staying with our friend Lulu Lyttle, and family, at Lulu’s parents’ beautiful Rectory in a ancient-feeling corner of Worcestershire – a corner of the country I have never been to. Lulu runs that fabulous shop Soane on Pimlico Road, and was, no less, responsible for giving the dinner party where Charlie and I met. Blog opportunities (or what I now call blogortunities)  would have abounded…. except that for most of the weekend, rain and storms swept in. We could hardly get out of the house, let alone take a photo.

On Sunday morning, Lulu came into the kitchen asking me ‘Ben do have these amazing books?’ I had to confess that I’d never seen them.  Lulu had been given them by Peter Twining, who runs the antiques department at Soane. Hachette’s The Art of Interior Decoration, in two volumes.P1070377 P1070378

I love this opening sentence. It’s actually very true.P1070379

Following the introduction are a series of stunning images, combining old school grandeur with highly contemporary interiors.P1070382 P1070383 P1070384 P1070385 P1070386

Random chapters, such as ‘Variations on the Hexagonal Tile’ make you chuckle as you leaf through the pages. P1070387

The Chateau de Flecheres:P1070388The dairy at the Chateau de Rambouillet:
P1070390 A random page concerned with flooring…

Carries this important memorandum:P1070393 P1070394

Oh god, now I want to do a conversation pit.P1070395

But on the very next page, this beautiful reference guide to different carpeting types. I think I am no longer going to refer to coir carpet as coir, but rather as coco-nut matting.P1070396 P1070397

The contrast of interiors and the richness of the interiors reminds me a little of the newest bible of the interior decoration world, Cabana magazine, to which I am sure every reader of this blog is already a subscriber.P1070398A section on Veneered panels:
P1070399 P1070400 P1070401 A Manhattan apartment is followed immediately by an essay on historic door designs:

I’m in love with this Watered silk entrance hall, decorated by Robert Thibier (a name I only really recognise today from beautiful coffee tables for sale on 1st dibs).P1070404 The library at Mellerstain:

A page of PassementerieP1070407

Includes a style guide to tassel ends, a level of historical understanding which I wasn’t really aware of until now:P1070408 P1070409 P1070410

The book contains an essay on ‘The Problem of Comfort’,P1070411 P1070412

And descriptions of lighting, door furniture, and millions of other details:P1070413

The back cover of volume one.P1070414

Volume two looks at styles of decoration. It too is a blissful read.

The styles are rather more self-explanatory.P1070416 P1070417

A very grand manner bed:P1070418 P1070419 P1070420 P1070421 P1070422

A beautiful bathroom by Madeleine Castaign:P1070423 P1070424 P1070425

A lovely room in Florida by the architect V. Lundy caught my eye. I’d never heard of Victor Lundy, but I was quite pleased, thanks to the internet, to make the acquaintance of this photograph of him during World War II:

25373rThere. That perked up your Monday morning. Moving back to the book…
P1070427 P1070428

Dream interior. I love this room:P1070429 I’m rather intrigued by this room (location not listed) and how few sofas or upholstered armchairs it contains, just a beautiful collection of chairs that cross styles and periods:

The book ends with a cross-style analysis of which styles and pieces of furniture may successfully be combined. The coding system is a little too complex to explain on the blog, but it makes complete sense.P1070437

It was a brilliant way to lose myself for an hour on Sunday morning. Thank you, Lulu. I got back to London and immediately ordered my copies. Old school decorating, and just so bang on trend.

8 comments on this post

Nicola Lawrencesays:

Dear Ben. These photos are wonderful – I’m catching up from last week (and actually have a first edition copy of the first book). Your intrigue with the second last pic (lack of sofas – mostly chairs) reminds me of Peter’s mother (my mother in law, Judith). She is in her 80s and has had only chairs in all rooms for about the last 30 years as she doesn’t believe in slothing about – relaxing…… She doesn’t sit still – although if we put a glass of wine or three into her hand we are allowed to sit around the dining table for half an hour or so! Nothing like a good lie down on a sofa I say….

The Art of Interior Decoration books are real finds! It seems addressed to the layman, but the level of information is really high. When was it published? I’m surprised it that it’s still in print, or perhaps you’ll track down a used copy?

Well, I investigated Cabana magazine (completely unfamiliar) and found it can be had here in the US for 22 BP an issue. Gads! Out of my range for a magazine, alas. It is on Instagram, however, so I can indulge myself there. Thanks for sharing!


Tassel ends! Who knew there was any period connected to them? Not I.

It might be crazy to say this, but I think your book posts are some of my favorite. Partly because as an American reader the books you choose to show are mostly unfamiliar to me, but I think mostly because you manage to convey the sense that we’re looking over your shoulder, seeing what interests you most.

And that is an extraordinary conversation pit — probably the best of its kind. I mention this in case the book didn’t: it’s from Miller House, by Eero Saarinen with interiors by Alexander Girard. Grounds and house are exquisite. Weird that the publisher didn’t print that picture in color, because it’s all about color. Highly recommend you look into this house more if you’re interested — weirdly enough, some of the original Girard curtains from this house are being sold and I just ran across them (not a plug, but the patterns and colors are lovely):

Suspect you’ll enjoy. Thanks for flipping the pages.


The watered silk room is mouth-watering Ben, I wonder what colour it is, I’d imagine eau de nil. BTW I believe the picture labelled as Palazzo Pallavicini in Rome is in fact the Dairy at Ch de Rambouillet outside Paris. David


David I believe you’re right!!! THANK YOU!


Phwoar! Thanks for Victor Lundy, supplied on a Monday, in the manner of Solomon Grundy.

Dear Ben, what a fantastic discovery! The books are marvels. I think I’m going to have to get my own copies. Rob

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