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  • Claire Rendall

Any colour so long as it’s all of them..!

Updated: Jun 28, 2022

Lord Bath with Claire Rendall

On a grey day like today I’ve been thinking about colour…

One of my most colourful clients has undoubtedly been Alexander Thynne, Marquess of Bath. Larger than life, flamboyant, with a passion for colour and texture, he was every interior designer’s joy and challenge to deal with!

I recall discussing with him the colour of curtains for his Penthouse Apartment. I wanted something soft and elegant to sit with the sycamore furniture I had designed for him. He was adamant he wanted red. Shocked, I quizzed him further. “Because it will contrast with the Capability Brown Parkland outside,” he reasoned.

I couldn’t argue with that so red it was. It was an interesting point and one that most clients miss, that the view from a room outward is as important as the interior design of a room itself. I’m not advocating that everyone who looks out onto green has red curtains – having a contrast was his particular thing. Most clients want harmony and some look out onto terraces or water.

In our discussions about interiors and colour, it became clear that Lord Bath has long hankered after painting the Great Hall at Longleat House in Wiltshire, his ancestral home. This is obviously a no-no with English Heritage. I therefore thought we’d take a digital photograph and we could colour it according to his wishes.

Design in Longleat House

It’s an interesting point and not one that many people realise, that when the house was built the Great Hall was extremely colourful. Pigments were expensive and so in order to show off their wealth, the builders of these great houses flaunted it with brightly coloured interiors. It was the Victorians who wanted to re-create their vision of how to make places look old and venerable and they stripped the pigments from stonework and painted the woodwork a dark sludgy brown.

In the same way as Puritans cleared churches of brightly coloured stone and woodwork, many great houses were recreated in dour tones. Shown here is a fabulous example of a panel that escaped the Puritan purge.

There are still some pigments hiding on the magnificent stone fireplace at Longleat House. I had wondered whether the original colours would be incorporated into Lord Baths vision.

Well, how wrong was I! Obviously this artist wanted to re-create his own vision of how it should look. Here’s the result…

It is a little bit scary isn’t it? And judging from comments made in a visitors book we left next to a large print-out in the Great Hall, the majority of people were horrified!

But here’s the thing. It is his house. So why shouldn’t he be able to do this? It is certainly in line with what Sir John Thynne would have wanted and historically, while the colours aren’t exactly as they would have been, it is far more in keeping with the ethos of the Elizabethan age…


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