Monday, August 18, 2014

Museum Review: Houghton Hall

Houghton Hall: Portrait of an English Country House is the third English exhibit I've seen in the past three years.

I'm getting the feeling that there's network of people in England, all owners or caretakers of stately homes, telling each other: "If you need a money to fix this place, go ahead and get the workmen in and instead of putting your art and furniture in storage, send it to the States as an 'exhibition'. The Yanks will pay for everything."

Not that that's a bad thing. I'm unlikely to visit Norfolk anytime soon, so I might as well appreciate what they're willing to send while they are re-pointing the roof. Houghton Hall was built in the 1720's for Sir Robert Walpole, the first prime minister of England, and the house remains in the family.

Because they couldn't box up the building and ship it over, the Houghton Hall exhibit is mostly interesting from the point of view of the interior decorator. There are paintings, chinoiserie, and Sèvres porcelain, but the best part is really the enormous photos, set up with the furniture, to give you the feeling of standing in actual rooms.

Houghton was the first home in England to ever have a purpose built dining room. Before then, tables would be set up in the main hall, or a parlor, depending on how many you were feeding. To have a room set aside just for eating, how luxurious can you get? 

My personal favorite was the bedroom with the hand painted Chinese wallpaper. Of course they couldn't send the room, but they had some extra rolls of wallpaper, so they've hung those around the exhibition space. They also included a bed with the most beautiful embroidered silk hangings.  

I'm not a big fan of wallpaper, but this could change my mind. Do you think this would be too much in my little suburban house?

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