Going Dutch

Going Dutch

 

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This neat and attractive wallpaper and border, perhaps from around the turn of the twentieth century, was uncovered during the restoration of the home of a leading Dutch building contractor specialising in conservation and restoration. Something about the pattern has a particular yet undefinable European quality – it is not simply the 18-inch width of the paper that tells you it was not made in England. The paper has a curious flecked background pattern which  we approached with some trepidation, as it required absolute consistency of print quality, and the tiny flecks seemed bound to clog up quickly on the screen. Despite our fears ( and thanks to the addition of a judicious dose of retarder to the ink) the printing went perfectly and the results happily met the client’s exacting standards.

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Garnish Island – papering paradise

Garnish Island – papering paradise

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Lying only a few hundred yards offshore in the quiet waters of Glengarriff harbour, Garnish island – or Ilnacullin as it is also known – can hardly be described as a remote island. Those who make the journey soon realise that it is a place apart, however  – as did George Bernard Shaw, who came to the island several times. As he was leaving at the end of his final visit in 1923 his hostess, Violet Bryce bade him farewell with the words  ‘Goodbye, Shaw – I hope we meet in heaven’. ‘Madam, are we not here already?, he replied before stepping into the boat.

The island’s Italianate gardens, laid out by the English designer Harold Peto for the M.P.  Annan Bryce and his wife Violet  in the early years of the twentieth century, draw thousands of visitors a year, and are managed by the Office of Public Works. This year, the O.P.W. completed a major refurbishment and restoration of Bryce Cottage, the house where two generations of the family lived during their visits to the island. The cottage was originally intended as the gardener’s house, but Peto’s original designs for a huge, Lutyens-esque mansion built around the Martello tower on the island’s highest point never materialised, after the family lost most of their wealth in the Russian revolution, and guests like Shaw or Agatha Christie had to make to do with bedrooms of quite modest dimensions.

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Both generations of  Bryces were evidently lovers of wallpaper, and enough remained on the walls or at the back of cupboards to enable many of the rooms to be papered with copies of the patterns which had been used in the house. These are mostly patterns of the mid-twentieth century, and cover quite a range of styles – from the intricately drawn toile-style paper in the drawing room, to perkily avant-garde geometrics, right down to bog standard cottage florals made in Ireland  by Kildare Wallpapers.  Papers from the early twentieth century were less in evidence, apart from small fragments of a pattern combining symmetrically flattened floral motifs set in strapwork, found in the entrance hall and upper corridor, and which might have been admired by G.B.S.

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The problem of sourcing suitable patterns for the earlier period was solved thanks to the resources of the Irish Heritage Trust’s recently established archive of historic wallpapers, stored in Fota House. Two very attractive patterns from the Fota archive were copied and used in Violet Bryce’s bedroom and another guest bedroom. Also from the archive, a complete pattern – similar in style to the fragments found in the entrance hall – was copied and re-coloured to match the fragments.

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Altogether, we made twelve ‘new’ old papers for Bryce Cottage, most of them screen-printed in our studio in Leitrim, but some – for reasons of economy and speed – digitally printed. These now form a fitting backdrop to the furniture, paintings and memorabilia of the Bryce family and their two remarkable servants, the Scottish-born head gardener Murdo Mackenzie and the housekeeper Maggie O’Sullivan (1908-99), who in her lifetime on the island  ‘cooked tea for all the Irish presidents except one’.

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For more on Garnish Island and its inhabitants, see this excellent blog (from which some of the above images have been sourced):

https://garinishisland.wordpress.com

 

Edwards Place- a restored mansion in Springfield, Illinois

 

Edwards Place- a restored mansion in Springfield, Illinois

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Edwards Place is one of several historic properties in Springfield, Illinois, associated with Abraham Lincoln. Formerly the home of the Edwards family, its furnishings include a mid-nineteenth century settee on which the future president is said to have sat while courting Mary Todd,  related by marriage to the Edwards family,  who  became the future president’s wife in 1842. Since 1913, the house has belonged to the Springfield Art Association, who  began a major restoration in 2014, aimed at presenting the principal rooms as they were in the 1850s, a time when Lincoln was a regular visitor. We were brought in to the project by our U.S. partners Belfry Historic Consultants, and asked to reproduce two wallpapers which were discovered  beneath modern drywall at an early stage of the project.

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Although large pieces of each paper survived, their condition gave rise to difficulties when it came to understanding how the papers had originally looked. The more elaborate of the two patterns combined trophies and floral swags contained within moiré-effect stripes, highlighted with gold details, but the block-printed colours had faded so much that the outlines of the pattern could only be seen by transmitted light – against a window or on a light-box. One tiny strip of overlapped margin, which had remained protected from discolouration, gave some indication that the pattern had been printed in shades of grey distemper against a satin-finish  ground in pale duck-egg. We produced a range of samples around this theme – both digital and screen-printed – before the clients settled on one which seemed most appropriate. Gratifyingly, the subsequent discovery of another large piece of this paper in better condition showed that our suggestions and the clients’ choice had been surprisingly accurate.

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The second paper was a simpler affair – a two-colour damask, block-printed in off-white on a beige ground and with the kind of intense ultramarine accents which were hugely popular in the 1850s and which seem utterly bizarre to modern taste. This too has a satin ground – so much easier to make in these days of gloss-finish water-based acrylics than in the days of distemper, when the only way to produce a shiny surface was to buff the painted paper laboriously with talc and a smooth stone. The contrast between a pattern in matt distemper (or acrylic) and a satin ground is pleasing, and was widely exploited in the early to mid-nineteenth century. Perhaps the effect is due for a come-back in these days of ubiquitous matt-ness and ‘chalk-finish’ paints.

In the front formal parlor, an original section of wallpaper dating from the 1850's discovered during the renovation is preserved behind plexiglass for visitors. Now known as the Edwards Place pattern, new wallpaper from this remnant was replicated using a computer and manufactured for the project. Renovations are nearly complete on the first floor rooms at Edwards Place in Springfield, home of attorney Benjamin Edwards, son of Ill Governor Ninian Edwards and brother-in-law to Mary Lincoln’s sister Elizabeth. Part of the Springfield Art Association complex, public tours for the antebellum mansion are scheduled to resume April 21 after a nearly $500,000 restoration project begun over a year ago has brought the home up to its mid 19th Century appearance. Money for the project came from private donors and the Jeffris Family Foundation, with fundraising ongoing for future renovation of 2nd story rooms. Photographs taken during home tour on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015. David Spencer/The State Journal-Register

A Roman bust of Diana, goddess of the hunt, is displayed atop an 1850's era square grand piano made by E. N. Scherr of Philadelphia on display in one of the home's formal parlors. Renovations are nearly complete on the first floor rooms at Edwards Place in Springfield, home of attorney Benjamin Edwards, son of Ill Governor Ninian Edwards and brother-in-law to Mary Lincoln’s sister Elizabeth. Part of the Springfield Art Association complex, public tours for the antebellum mansion are scheduled to resume April 21 after a nearly $500,000 restoration project begun over a year ago has brought the home up to its mid 19th Century appearance. Money for the project came from private donors and the Jeffris Family Foundation, with fundraising ongoing for future renovation of 2nd story rooms. Photographs taken during home tour on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015. David Spencer/The State Journal-Register

Also, for the sitting room at Edwards Place, we supplied our ‘Edenderry’ pattern of oak leaves and acorns set in stripes. This is an Irish pattern of the 1830s, so slightly earlier than the restored décor of the other rooms – nevertheless it fits in very well.

In the Sitting Room, new oak-leaf patterned wallpaper covers the walls along with new carpeting, recessed lighting and other imporovements. An oil painting of Benjamin Edwards can be seen over the fireplace. Renovations are nearly complete on the first floor rooms at Edwards Place in Springfield, home of attorney Benjamin Edwards, son of Ill Governor Ninian Edwards and brother-in-law to Mary Lincoln’s sister Elizabeth. Part of the Springfield Art Association complex, public tours for the antebellum mansion are scheduled to resume April 21 after a nearly $500,000 restoration project begun over a year ago has brought the home up to its mid 19th Century appearance. Money for the project came from private donors and the Jeffris Family Foundation, with fundraising ongoing for future renovation of 2nd story rooms. Photographs taken during home tour on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015. David Spencer/The State Journal-Register

For more on Edwards Place and its restoration, see

www.edwardsplace.org