Interior designer Caroline Percy has launched Historic Decoration Days at the house she grew up in – the beautiful Syon House in west London – in association with Historic Houses Association
Caroline Percy spent her childhood in Syon House, surrounded by historic and important works of art. As one of the last great houses of London, Syon has been in the Percy family for more than 400 years and unsurprisingly, Percy has developed a vested and emotional interest in decorative arts and historic interior styles.
An interior designer in her own right and a consultant in Fine Art and Antiques, Percy advises clients on the acquisition and sale of antiques including furniture, objets d’art and paintings. On meeting Oliver Gerrish, who for over a decade was closely involved with historical architectural charity, The Georgian Group, which he founded, the two came up with the idea of running Historic Decoration Days at Syon House itself.
The aim of the study days is to explain and define the many aspects of the history of British interior design and to explore the options available to assist in the restoration and reinterpretation of the historic interior today. Percy has found that many people come to her for advice when attempting to renovate, or even simply decorate, a historic home.
The speakers at the days are all established experts in their respective fields, full of practical advice on decorating period properties and what works in the 21st century.
The beauty of this project is that you can learn while being immersed in the history and wonderful anecdotes of the interior design over the years. In 1761, Percy tells me, Robert Adam was commissioned by the first Duke of Northumberland to create a spectacular sequence of decorative interiors.
Syon was originally a Tudor House, with some Jacobean additions such as the Long Gallery. In 1761, Robert Adam was commissioned by the first Duke of Northumberland to create a spectacular sequence of decorative interiors
‘Syon was originally a Tudor House, with some Jacobean additions such as the Long Gallery. Adam came in to completely revamp the property,’ explains Percy.
‘He was one of the first architects to devise complete interior schemes for houses, right down to the way the keys in the lock would work – he was a very forward-thinking man of his time. He had a dictionary of drawings from his time in Rome, which you can see in the design here, particularly in the triumphant arches used everywhere and in the Great Hall.’
On 11 June, a study day titled Paints and Paintwork for the Historic Interior with Edward Bulmer, who is renowned for restoring heritage spaces, focused on the lessons to be learned from the history of paint making, the use of pigment and the allocation of colour.
‘A good example of using things in an appropriate way is lighting. However well you do historic interiors, if you’ve got rubbish lighting then you may as well forget it,’ says Percy. ‘So we have also had a day that taught people about how best to light a historic house. It’s all about giving people the tools to do it themselves.’
This is where the location of Syon really comes into play too, as following this, Percy showed me into the Ante Room to highlight how the lighting is sympathetic to the fact that originally it was designed to be lit by candlelight – not thousands of modern watts.
‘It’s interesting how colour completely changes the atmosphere too,’ says Percy. ‘We brought the Great Hall back to the Edwardian white that it would have been, as opposed to a Dulux bright white. Something as simple as paint can allow you to see a room and a period building as it should be seen, or as it was designed.’
The cost of each study day is £180 including refreshments, lunch in the Garden Kitchen Restaurant, afternoon tea in the Green Drawing Room and a tour of Syon House. for upcoming dates see historicdecoration.com