A Writer’s Travel Guide: Inside Napoleon’s and Marie-Louise’s Home in Compiègne

Compiègne was one of three seats of the French royal government. The royal residence we know today, the Château de Compiègne, was built for Louis XV. Napoleon restored the château after it was left gutted during the French Revolution, and he ordered it to be made habitable again in 1807. He had its layout altered, a ballroom added, and the garden replanted.

But what did the restless French emperor do with another palace? Well, he lived there with his young bride, Marie-Louise, and it was there where they spent their first night together. Continue reading

Panoramic Scene Wallpaper for the Fashionable Home of the Regency Period

In this post:

  • The marvel of the panoramic scene wallpaper
  • Technical innovations of the early 19th century
  • Keeping the craft alive

Panoramic scene ‘L’Hindoustan’ in the Garden Room of Basildon Park / England

Wallpaper has been known since at least the 15th century. Starting as a rare luxury item for the elite, wallpaper became more popular in England at the beginning of the 18th century. By then, wallpaper had become a cheap alternative to tapestry or panelling. 1712, the government even imposed a tax on it. Despite the taxation the demand for wallpaper grew in the mid-18th century.
Most wallpapers had been brought to England by the East India Company from China, where Chinese artisans produced hand-painted, dedicated wallpaper for their rich English customers. By the end of the 18th century, producers in France specialized in printed wallpaper became an important competitor on the market.
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Robert Adam’s Bumpy Career Start

When budding star-architect Robert Adam returned from his Grand Tour in 1758, he needed to find clients for the glamorous style he had developed in Italy. He knew that only the very rich would be able to pay for the grandeur he designed. Thus, he and his brothers settled close to High Society. They set up their home first at St. James’s Place, then at Lower Grosvenor Street in London. It was most important for Robert to be regarded as a gentleman architect rather than a professional architect, as he feared that being the latter would lower his status to a mere craftsmen. Robert displayed the many sketches he had made in Italy in his home, while the drawing office was located at New Bond Street, ‘invisible’ for his clients.

It was difficult for the ambitious Adam brothers to find their first commissions. Aristocrats who hadn’t mind Robert’s company abroad in Italy weren’t willing to socialise with him in snobbish London. Eventually, two women were instrumental in starting the Adam brothers’ career.  Continue reading

7 Objects of Beauty: A Tribute to Robert Adam

The young man was an upper-middle class Scotsman, a second son, and he had left university prematurely. But he possessed genius and ambition, a convenient wealth of 900 pounds a year, and some hands-on experience gained at his family’s architectural practice. Thus, he was well equipped to embark on a journey to the Continent in the company of an Earl’s brother in 1754. Yet, Robert Adam, aged 26, was not to know that this journey would be the key to making him the most sought-after architect of his time.

The year 2017 marks the 225th anniversary of the death of the famous Scottish architect Robert Adam (3 July 1728 – 3 March 1792). This post is dedicated to the aesthetics of his unique neo-classical style. I have compiled a selection of photos of Adam’s works, from ceilings to chimney-pieces. You are very welcome to enjoy the delicate and the decadent, and the weird and the wonderful. Continue reading

The World at Home: Furniture Fashion in the Romantic Age

Roman chair

Chair in Grecian Style (Palace of Caserta, Italy)

The Romantic Age saw a quick succession of trends in furniture fashion. These trends had one thing in common: They were inspired by foreign cultures, and often sparked by exploration and discoveries.
Travelling was expensive. Doing the Grand Tour to see the art treasures of France and Italy was only for the rich. Decorating a room with furniture in the style of the ancient Greek and Roman civilisations demonstrated wealth and education. Later in the age, wars and the Continental Blockade put a stop to private travelling. Nevertheless, furniture inspired by distant countries brought an exotic touch to the home.

Which style was fashionable in which decade of the Romantic Age? When would the hero of a Regency novel buy furniture inspired by the Egyptian culture? Would the heroine be likely to sleep in a lit à la polonais in 1812? Here is a small, chronological exhibition to answer these questions. Continue reading

Adventures for Regency Enthusiasts: The Country House After Dark

Have you ever wondered

  • how dark it was in an 18th century country house after sunset?
  • what you can see in a room lit only by candles?
  • how it feels to enter a room illuminated by several crystal chandeliers?

You could arrange an experiment at your home by lighting some candles at night. But this wouldn’t quite reproduce the lighting conditions of a country house, as there are less gildings, reflecting mirrors and chandeliers in the average apartment of our times.

chateauI thus set out to experience a historic house after nightfall. My central question: What are the lighting conditions and how can a Historical Novel Writer depict them properly in a novel?
Let me take you to the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, a grand chateau in France. We will wander its rooms and enjoy its park adorned with thousands of torches.

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