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4.0 out of 5 stars I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls . . ., 29 Aug 2011
Peasant (Deepest England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The English Room (Hardcover)
The title of this book is "The English Room"; not 'English Rooms', let alone 'English Interiors'. With text by Michael Pick and photographs by Derry Moore, the aim is to somehow define English taste by presenting what the authors clearly feel is a cross-section of characteristic interiors.

The relatively brief introduction attempts, through anecdote, quotation, description and abstract theorising, to define what is "English" about the English room, referring in passing to the popularity of the English look in the States (a phenomenom which has spawned a strange Frankenstein version of the English look called Shabby Chic), and in the way the baton of fashion has passed this century from France to the UK. But it is the accumulated weight of all the rooms chosen for inclusion which gives us the best insight into what the authors consider typical.

The book has, necessarily, dated, and I doubt any writer would today choose the same collection of interiors, though no doubt some classics would still feature. Overwhelmingly, we are given the classically grand and, for contrast, the Colefax and Fowler-style country house. Here are marble halls in plenty, many well-known and impossible for anyone but a Russian oligarch to imitate today. But the most common "look" is the cluttered, chintzy one - whether in a large stately home or a modest flat. Of course, at the time the book was published this was the height of chic, but I suspect most of these rooms look the same today. I have no doubt that, in the flesh, they have considerable charm; but photographed here the effect is indigestible, even overwhelming.

For proportion, there are a small - a very small - number of rooms which don't fit this pattern. A pair of cottage fireplaces. A gauntly beautiful interior named only as "An Oxfordshire Country House". Clouds Hill, the minimalist cottage of T. E. Lawrence. Charleston, the Bloomsbury Group's hand-painted summer holiday farmhouse. These are so startlingly different from the mass of other interiors, each carefully named as Wotsit Hall, the Toffshire Residence of the Honourable Someone'Or-Other, or The London House of Lady Vaguely-Wellknown, that the thesis of the authors is undermined, and we are left desiring more of these eccentric, individual interiors.

This book will fascinate social and design historians, will be useful up to a point to interior decorators, and will greatly please the kind of reader who enjoys visiting stately homes. Those who want something more practical, more cosily charming, should try English Cottage Interiors (Country) which has a wide selection of rooms both ingenuous and designerly.
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The English Room
The English Room by Michael Pick (Paperback - 8 May 1986)
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