At our last live study event we visited the Ai Weiwei exhibition at the Design Museum in London. A few of us had some extra time - and stamina - towards the end of the day so decided to take a quick look around Leighton House in Holland Park too!
Leighton House was the home of Victorian painter Frederic, Lord Leighton, and was what we would now call a live-work space, combining both living and studio space.
Construction on the main house began in 1835, and the resulting building was relatively modest in size for the time period and wealth of its owner. It initially comprised a dining room, drawing room and breakfast room around the hallway on the ground floor, and his small bedroom and much larger painting studio on the upper floor.
Leighton made a number of extensions to the original house over the years, one of which was the Arab Hall. The Arab Hall, added in 1877, is one of the most impressive rooms in the house, and was inspired by Leightons travels in Damascus in 1873. Other additions to the house include a winter studio and the Silk Room, which was designed to house Leightons collection of paintings by other artists, hung on walls lined with green silk.
We had a really good look around the house, paying particular attention to the beautiful tiles and indoor fountain in the Arab Hall, and the strangely modest bedroom, with an oddly proportioned, very tall thin door on the upper floor. This interior was such a contrast in stylistic and decorative terms, to the other far more extravagant spaces in the rest of the house.
Leighton House has been shortlisted for the ArtFund Museum of the Year award 2023, following extensive restoration and development over the last couple of years, so it’s a great time to visit the newly displayed rooms and spaces. But if you can’t make it to see Leighton House in real life there’s loads more information about Frederic Lord Leighton, his house and life, on this website:
If you do manage to visit Leighton House in person, try to make time to take a short walk around the local streets in Holland Park too. There are 7 other houses, all within 5 or 10 minutes walk, that used to be the homes of those in the artistic community known as the Holland Park Circle. These Victorian artists all commissioned purpose built studio houses, just like Leighton. Unfortunately these houses are not open to the public, but still beautiful to look at from the outside!
Live study events are a great opportunity to meet with like-minded students and talk about interior design. We try to meet two or three times each year and visit different sites, galleries and exhibitions that are pertinent to studying spatial environments. Students have said that they find these opportunities to meet up with each other invaluable - and a real added benefit to their regular studies - so I would encourage any students who are able, and haven’t been before, to try and come to the next one!