Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Lutyen's British Embassy public spaces

The public spaces of Lutyen's British Embassy exemplify the British Country House look; grand, luxurious with an aire of informality, and above all Classical, albeit with a twist.
After ascending the Main stair one is confronted with a long corridor that creates the spine of the house. This axis is meant to impress the visitor, leading one to believe that the house is much larger than it actually is, while also providing ample room to entertain.
One can follow this strict axis in the floorplan above.  Much in the Beaux Arts mode, the initial spaces are where no expense is spared and the details are ravishing.
These plaster capitals, moulding, and scagliola columns would not escape the notice of the most ardent non-aesthete.
The ballroom is not hidden behind doors but rather creates a cross-axis with the corridor. Notice the Warhol portrait of Queen Elizabeth II above the mantel. The mirrors with mounted crystal sconces were my favorite part of the room. Original to the space they had been removed for decades before a previous ambassador had them re-installed.
 The level of detail found in these 85 year old plaster mouldings is impressive; no over-painting regimen here!
After the ballroom one approaches the large corner drawing room, with multiple seating groups, which faces the beautiful lawn and gardens.
 As can be expected in a house with this many large windows the quality of light is beautiful.
Opposite from the drawing room is the dining room. Again the corner location makes for the best use of light even with the opulent curtains.
These crystal girandoles flanking the mantel were show-stoppers. The mantel had been painted gray until one day a painter noticed that it was made of an orange scagliola;  the paint was judiciously removed from the columns and direct fire surround for contrast.
My favorite shot I took in the house, and which sums up the entire British attitude towards such grandeur, was this table lamp in the dining room slightly askew;  Modest to a fault.
While I took hundreds of photos I have to leave some of the house a mystery so you check out the amazing book which was the purpose for my tour: The Architecture of Diplomacy: The British Ambassador's Residence in Washington. Above and in the first photo of this post you see images of the ambassador's private study which artfully bridges what was once the connection between the residence and the embassy.
No Englishman's study would be complete without a bar: this one complete with a portrait of Field Marshal Montgomery, expertly painted by President Eisenhower in 1952. And not to fret, while this may be the only general overview I'll post on the interior of the house (really, get the book as my images could NEVER compare), I still have stunning details to bring you from Lutyen's American Masterpiece: The British Embassy.


Kerry Steele- Design du Monde said...

I shall have to get a look at that book. It looks marvelous!

John J. Tackett said...

An excellent reminder that a good floor plan is essential to overall success.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Kerry, you will love the book it has everything, history AND design!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

John, yes - I think the best projects have the plan as the driver and in some cases the section (which is really just a vertical plan)

Toby Worthington said...

Thanks for this tour, Stefan---and the inclusion of the lamp with its shade askew. Very British, that detail, but one which (for all my anglomania) I could never abide in my own rooms!

Blue said...

In my case it's candles that I don't mind askew and mine always are. Makes me wonder why the heck I have candles if I don't burn them but according to a friend it's very Haute Queen to have them in gold candlesticks on the coffee table. BTW despise the little burned tips that seem to be the think nowadays.

Not at all what I wanted to comment about, but an element of carelessness is essential in an interior, don't you think?

I really have enjoyed this tour and must say that the book is a treasure. I bought it on your recommendation and am very glad I did so.

Karena said...

Stefan thank you for taking through this wondrous home!

The Arts by Karena

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Blue - I have the same problem with my many candles too -particularly in some sconces in my dining room. I have tried everything? the little wax strips to make the candle base more snug and even museum putty (which seems to work the best). I use them generally only when I'm having a dinner party but their being crooked does bother me -if you light them, wax could just spill everywhere!
SO glad you're enjoying the book!

Mark D. Ruffner said...

Thanks again for the tour, Stefan. I think that the corridor gives the illusion of a greater space and also intersects the ballroom is brilliant.But of course, that's what Lutyen was.

The Down East Dilettante said...

I've always liked my classical straight up with a twist.

Row homes and Cobblestones said...

I really enjoyed your post series of the British embassy.
You have created great interest in purchasing the book and I can't wait until mine arrives to drool over, with great appreciation and respect ;-)
The plaster columns cause my heart to race, simply gorgeous. Looking forward to your future posts.

Terry said...

Hey Stefan, off topic: I'm visiting family in McLean. They are still talking about the Palisades(?) home tour you blogged. Your heads-up went through Atlanta back up to McLean. Best wishes.

Lord Cowell said...

I am really enjoying this series of postings. I love this style of architecture and it is interesting to see the transatlantic effect of Lutyens. I look forward to more of your interior photos. David.