We cut and paste this from The Daily Telegraph’s ‘Real Life Problems’ page…..
I recently inherited a paltry mansion from an elderly relative. Of course with these old country places, space is at a premium. Do Boris Johnson and the rest of the team have any idea how to create an exciting living space and get the most from cramped living conditions? There are just a couple of hundred rooms available.
Sir Marmaduke Fulton-Hussey K.G
Dear Sir Marmaduke
Small stately homes can be a real problem. There never seems to be space to keep anything does there? Where to put all those suits of armour and hunting trophies? We canvassed our team to come up with a few ideas.
Entertaining: When you only have a small amount of space you have to be realistic. Guest lists should be limited. Perhaps you should cut out those second tier gentry when holding balls? In terms of meals, think rustic and frugal, with plenty of charming local produce. Seven or eight options at breakfast is probably sufficient. For a few dozen guests you don’t even need more than four Champagnes for instance.
Staircases: In terms of staircases, who wants to look at bare marble all day? It can also get very slippery on those Barbour wellies when you have been fox hunting and are rushing because you have dinner with a marquis or the PM. Our Top Tip is to put carpet down the middle. Boris says he tried this with silk Isfahan rugs, but the makers just had no idea when it comes to staircase carpets. Lifestyle Floors has carpet for stately homes if your estate manager asks.
Mirrors: When you have a fiddling escalier like the one in our photo, how to create the illusion of more space? With a mirror of course! For this example we used a baroque family heirloom, 6 feet across and 8 feet high, but you can always source alternatives at Sotheby’s, Christie’s or Homebase. Of course you need to be careful about positioning, and they can be a pain. Out Top Tip is that a good mirror should weigh a servant-squashing ton at least.
Clutter: It gets everywhere but you can’t seem to throw it out. Old masters, classical statuettes, ancestral swords, stuffed animal heads – clutter is always with us. Rather than get annoyed, why not turn it into a virtue? That irritating family silver can make an interesting display in entrance halls for example.
Light fittings: We all know how difficult disguising light fittings can be, particularly when you are trying to create ‘an atmosphere’. Obviously a well positioned chandelier can disguise those annoying wires – but beware! Rowan says “Chandeliers are a problem for everyone. Since our useless butler, Skanks, was crushed by a mirror and can’t get up ladders like he used to they are filthy. We have to have the lights on all day. It is playing havoc with the electricity bill.”
Space: When you don’t have much to play with you have to make the most of it. Have your servants polish those marble floors and tables to make the most of the light, particularly as some stately homes can get a little dingy. Our Top Tip for entrance halls is to remember that this is a living space. Think homely and welcoming.
Upcycling: What to do about that vintage furniture? Are you sick of tripping over sixteenth century card tables and rococo lounges? Bored of looking at that dageurreotype of grandpop standing with some natives and a dead lion? No longer! Upcycling is in! Strip down that furniture and you can salvage some nice wooden workbenches. Draw a few ‘vampire teeth’ on the photos and those ornate baroque picture frames can be used to add a creepy effect at Halloween.
We hope you find that useful. Please join us here again next week for more Real Life Problems.
Found by Graham@bjournal
Feature picture by Daniel Jolivet