For the Library: a new book from Jeremy Musson unveils the changing face of the English country home
In 'Romantics and Classics', the historic homes expert surveys outstanding examples of historic architecture and classic interior design
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Those who consider themselves country style purists will find much satisfaction flicking through Jeremy Musson’s Romantics & Classics. Showcasing architectural wonders from a variety of periods, the 300-page title brings to the fore 20 historic dwellings across Britain’s countryside which all, in some way, embody the quintessential English aesthetic; Constable Burton Hall, a Palladian pile in Yorkshire, and Beckley Park, a red-brick retreat near Oxford, are just a couple of tempting examples. It’s worth noting that all 20 of these homes are currently inhabited. So amongst the stately drawing rooms and grand four-poster beds, there’s also the odd wrinkled, time-worn armchair, scruffy wandering dog or slightly overgrown garden, captured in sumptuous photos by Hugo Rittson Thomas.
Musson has written short essays to accompany each of the houses featured in the book; having served as editor of Country Life magazine, worked in the curatorial department of the National Trust and been a heritage advisor, he is nothing less than a maestro on all things related to bucolic abodes. The author has also penned a trio of standalone studies on colour, furniture and gardens – the three factors he thinks are vital for country interiors (as well as a customary dash of chintz).
However, go deep into the book and even super-devotees of the classic English style will see that change is afoot – in Musson’s eyes, many of these homes are undergoing something of a metamorphosis. No longer, he argues, are the interiors of pastoral properties simply windows into the past, but they are now boasting a thrilling mix of old and new decorative elements that sit comfortably side-by-side. For instance, there’s Wolverton Hall, an 18th-century pile in Worcestershire that added a modern Gothic folly to its grounds, and Haddon Hall, a 14th-century castle which the owners have adorned with contemporary artworks.
Romantics & Classics, then, is certainly a title that pays tribute to a classic style. But it’s distinct for also celebrating how that style is continually evolving. As Jeremy puts it, these homes are “a living culture… forever changing in order to stay the same.”
Romantics & Classics: Style in the English Country House by Jeremy Musson with photography by Hugo Rittson Thomas is published in March by Rizzoli.
Find out more about Jeremy Musson and previous titles he has authored.
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