London Life Places

leighton house museum

January 24, 2013

When i first visited leighton house museum many years ago, it literally took my breath away. Located on the edge of holland park in kensington, the house is one of the most remarkable buildings of the 19th century. It had extensive restoration and refurbishment between 2008 and 2010 and so I was delighted to see the new changes. It’s even more magical now.

The house was the former home and studio of the leading victorian artist, frederic leighton (1830-1896). Built to designs by george aitchison, it was extended and embellished over a period of 30 years to create a private palace of art!

Almost all of leighton’s exceptional collections of of fine art, decorative art and furniture were sold through christie’s auction house in the summer after his death and dispersed around the world. The house today is largely a reconstruction of the home that leighton lived in, painstakingly researched. The museum stresses that all efforts are made to trace and return the original contents but still, many objects remain absent.  However, it is absolutely obvious by visiting the house that a lot of his original vision has survived and these incredible interiors very much communicate the spirit with which this home must have been lovingly created.

I want you to know that it’s nearly impossible to take good pictures downstairs. It’s rather dark and it was tricky to focus. In the spirit of this home, i hope you enjoy these spectacular interiors.

Here is a little tour of some of the house.

The arab hall is the centerpiece of the house. Designed to display leighton’s priceless collection of over a thousand islamic tiles, mostly brought back from damascus in syria, the interior reminds me of the orient. I believe it also acted as a relaxation area and the trickling of water is incredibly soothing.

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Probably my favourite parts of the house were all the nooks. I just wanted to lie there and look through these lattice windows.

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The staircase hall. Those blue tiles, just gorgeous!

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The colours and details here below are breathtaking. I love the japanese pots standing on a mosaic floor under a 17th century turkish wedding chest.

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The wedding chest (above) has been adapted as a seat for the stairs (here below). Another nook I completely love!

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Look at that peacock! Standing tall and proud. Apparently this was a symbol of a victorian art movement that leighton is associated with – the aesthetic movement. Apparently the aesthetes were appalled by the ugliness of victorian britain and wanted to re-introduce a sense of beauty into the world through their art.

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The drawing room. Check out that funky chandelier!

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This red colouring of the dining room was deliberate as to show off the precious ceramics on the wall.

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Eurydice to orpheus – a painting by leighton.

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We are now on the first floor. I just couldn’t get this photo right. I tried, promise! This must be my absolute favourite nook. Basically it’s a daybed with these lattice windows that back on to the arab hall downstairs. Thanks to the lovely francoise I now know these are called  mashrabiya panels. So when you stand there, you can hear the trickling of water and look out to the lower floor. It’s so beautiful.

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A selection of seating furniture.

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We are now in leighton’s studio. It was the central feature of his home. It was here he spent most of his days working on his commissions. You can’t see it in the next 2 photos but there’s a large glass window that floods the room with light.

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Here are some close-ups shots.

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There is a cabinet with leighton’s oil paints. 

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This was one of the highlights for me. A stained window right at the back of the studio. There are 2 and i couldn’t tear myself away.

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I hope you enjoyed my little tour, but for those of you in london or the uk, there is nothing like seeing it for yourself. 

Just off the bedroom they showed a video called: closer to home – the restauration of leighton house museum. In the period from october 2008 to april 2010, when they closed for the major refurbishment, the film-maker frédérique morgan was commissioned to record the project from beginning to end. The film tells the story of the entire project and celebrates the work of the outstanding craft specialists who brought the work to completion. It’s about 1 hour long and although i watched most of it at the museum, i bought the dvd (£10) to savour at home. For all your budding interior designers, you’ll see weaving and craftsmanship like never before.

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34 Comments

  • Reply James Balston January 24, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Stunning! Must make it a priority this year

    • Reply tina January 29, 2013 at 6:11 pm

      Thanks. James, you’ll love it!!!

  • Reply WeHeartHome January 24, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    OMG. I can’t even believe this is real!!!! What a treat Tina, thank you. I can’t get over that mosaic tile floor.

    Woah!

    And you did a wonderful job with the pics, my dear!

    Xx. Holly.

    • Reply tina January 29, 2013 at 6:12 pm

      I know, in the middle of London. The first time I went I was blown away…. my pictures don’t do it justice. You need to see it….put it on ‘our’ list xx

  • Reply Doris January 24, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Gosh Tina! My list of places to visit from your blog is getting longer and longer. That Mosaic floor looks amazing and the vibrant colours of the walls and rugs. I’m not sure how or when but this has got to be a must see on my list! As usual great photos. Thank You. xD

    • Reply tina January 29, 2013 at 6:14 pm

      Haha. Always happy to oblige:-)

      Seriously, one afternoon, take your little one to Holland Park, and then pop into the House for a little ‘mummy treat’! Thank you Doris x

  • Reply Alison Sye January 24, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    Nothing wrong with those photos.
    Wow, the blue of those tiles and the blue of the peacock. I can’t believe I didn’t know about this place. Plan to visit at some point. Thank you.

    • Reply tina January 29, 2013 at 6:15 pm

      It was just hard to photograph there…:-)

      The peacock is amazing and the colours just as you see them. Hope you get to visit, a real treat! I only photographed the main rooms, there is a bit more.

  • Reply Nicola January 25, 2013 at 12:00 am

    Thank you Tina, you are a photographic aesthete 🙂

    • Reply tina January 29, 2013 at 6:15 pm

      Thank you Lady N, much appreciated x

  • Reply Igor January 25, 2013 at 12:54 am

    Wow, the richness of patterns and colours actually remind me of the Harem in the Topkapi palace in Istanbul. A visual feast!

    • Reply tina January 29, 2013 at 6:16 pm

      Yes, LOVED the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. In fact, I fell in love with Istanbul, full stop!!!! Thank you Sir.

  • Reply sue January 25, 2013 at 5:10 am

    ditto to what igor said… very harem like… this is embarrassingly close to where i live, can’t believe i haven’t been! on the list… 😉

    • Reply tina January 29, 2013 at 6:17 pm

      Yes, maybe after you get back from Aussie, in fact, fancy meeting up there???

      • Reply sue January 31, 2013 at 12:34 am

        that sounds like a lovely plan!

  • Reply Ingrid January 25, 2013 at 9:20 am

    Hey TIna,
    Visited this house about 10 years ago- think you have captured the strong impact in this post. Interesting to hear that about the peacock symbol. I love your tours of London! Makes me want to visit again x i

    • Reply tina January 29, 2013 at 6:18 pm

      Oh, glad you’ve been Ingrid. Thank you so much… come and visit anytime and I’ll be your tour guide x

  • Reply caroline @trend-daily January 25, 2013 at 11:56 am

    OOOH Mum took me to Holland Park playgroup everyday when I was a wee one and it’s absolutelyyears since we went back. This is a fabulous reminder to take Helga 😉 on a little weekend trip-lovely post sweetie! xx

    • Reply tina January 29, 2013 at 6:19 pm

      I LOOOOOVVVEEE Holland Park Playground. Still go quite regularly.. oh, what a treat this will be for Helga!! And you!! xx

  • Reply Gerard @WalnutGrey January 25, 2013 at 11:56 am

    You are too hard on yourself my dear as your pictures tell a wonderful story.

    What an eclectic visionary Frederic Leighton must have been. There are two standouts for me (and you’ve highlighted both) – the lattice window in the Arab hall and the blue tiles on the staircase.

    I’m always curious about a person’s need to cram so many objects & styles into one space, but given the era it seems to work.

    I did love Sir John Soane’s Museum at Lincoln’s Inn Fields when I visited. It is fascinating to explore the world of other people.

    Thanks for the tour xx

    • Reply Michaela January 27, 2013 at 12:09 pm

      Ooh I’m with you Gerard on the Sir John Soane’s Museum – one of the best spaces in London – totally compelling (especially the Rake’s progress panels)! And the mini stonehenge downstairs which reminds me of the film Spinal Tap! 🙂 xx

    • Reply tina January 29, 2013 at 6:21 pm

      Aww, thanks G:-)

      Ha, wait till you see how many paintings there are in spaces I wasn’t allowed to photograph (not allowed to photograph paintings)

      I LOVE Sir John Soane’s Museum at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and like you, was fascinated to see how much he travelled and collected. Again, difficult to photograph over there;-)

      Pleasure love xx

  • Reply Anya Jensen January 25, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    Oh Tina, I adore this place, reminds me so much of my previous visits to Morocco , and I agree totally with you and Gerard about the favorite nooks. Absolutely amazing. Hope you are well, Happy weekend lovely,
    Ax

    • Reply tina January 29, 2013 at 6:23 pm

      It is truly spectacular and very visionary for the times… I LOVE all the nooks. Thanks A xx

  • Reply geraldine January 25, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    As usual, such beautiful images Tina. I like the way the deep marine blue stands out against that jet black. Such a clever interplay of colours. You would expect it to feel quite dark with the shades used but it just stands out bright and vibrant, especially with the pops of gold. Such intricate designs and so beautiful. I’ve never heard of this place before but like Doris, on my ‘to visit’ list a la Colourliving. 🙂 xx

    • Reply tina January 29, 2013 at 6:25 pm

      Thank you, I like the ‘å la Colourliving bit:-)

      You know, my photos really don’t do it justice. When you’ll go you’ll realise how amazing the colours and design is… those tiles… the gold… the lattice windows… just amazing. xx

  • Reply leah of sang the bird January 26, 2013 at 3:09 am

    Wow! It is all so rich and alive with colour, texture and pattern. It is stunning, and so over the top! Beautifully shot xx

    • Reply tina January 29, 2013 at 6:26 pm

      Thank you Leah, glad you like!

      I know, heaven for us colour, texture and patterns lovers… needs to be seen though. Will teleport you here xx

  • Reply Jennifer | The Make Lounge January 26, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    Wow! Amazing, I had never heard of this place before your blog post, but I think it’s a must-visit. Thank you 🙂

    • Reply tina January 29, 2013 at 6:27 pm

      Yes, Jennifer, you must go… you will love it. In the middle of Holland Park. Just imagine…. let me know what you think if you visit:-) Thanks!

  • Reply Chi @ 106 January 26, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    What a spectacular home and – contrary to what you might think – you’ve captured it wonderfully! 😀

    I love the way the sumptuous colours pop against the backdrop of the dark walls, the stained glass window, the jaw-dropping studio, the mashrabiya panels ….

    There so much incredible artistry on display that I’m positively giddy! I think I’ll need to come back later to take it all in. Either that or go there myself. 😉

    Superb! 😀 xo

    • Reply tina January 29, 2013 at 6:29 pm

      Thanks love – you are all too kind. I think I took the decision that I’m taking you on a tour of the house and even if some photos are sub-standard, it’s still worth it, especially for people on the other side of the world:-)

      The Mashrabiya panels are incredible and I would LOVE to have one here and now!

      Chi, whenever you can steal yourself away, come and we can meet there for an hour or so. Chat, while looking at incredible art & interiors! Thanks love x

  • Reply Michaela January 27, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    How beautifully opulent! You need a lot of space to pull this look off. I do think though we are going to see a lot more floral and art Nouveau style interiors. They are so beautiful, but are hard to incorporate with other trends.

    PS I like the cheeky pic too! (picture four I think!) hehe 🙂 xx

    • Reply tina January 29, 2013 at 6:33 pm

      Yeah, space is required for opulence and OTT!! I think you’re right. There is definitely a trend towards the opulent, garish but so stylish OTT interiors. I mean Art Nouveau was great! I don’t know, of course, you couldn’t mix with IKEA but I love a bit of mixing of styles and trends and the visionaries will find a way, they always do.

      Thanks M xx

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