Victorian Interior Design

Sunday, January 26, 2014

What a way to spend an afternoon, having a tour around a truly remarkable Victorian B&B in the heart of Tunbridge Wells, being taught how to fold napkins by an ex Butler, and having afternoon tea with the most delicious cakes to finish off!

There is of course nothing out of the ordinary having a Victorian B&B in Tunbridge Wells, but 'The Victorian Bed and Breakfast' run by Mr Harold Brown (an ex Butler) has taken the authenticity of Victoriana to a completely different level. Sheer passion and patience to find the right pieces to furnish and accessorise the interior has resulted in a truly unique historical stay. 

As soon as you walk through the entrance door you know you are in for a treat with a complete explosion to the senses. I could have spent an hour in the hallway alone. It was dark, with limited lighting, as it would have been back in the day. The chandelier was exquisite. A roaring fire warmed the hallway, fresh orange peel sitting by the fire to give off a delicate perfume. 

The Victorians were masters of trompe d'oeil and Harold has used some of their techniques to incredible effect in the hallway. Rag rolled walls with hand painted grout lines give the effect of large brickwork. Wallpaper painted with chevron parquet covers the ceiling. It looks hand made, exactly as it would have in the 19th Century. It honestly feels like a step back into the past. 

The Drawing Room below is a feast for the eyes and incredibly welcoming

The downstairs rooms have bold patterned papered walls, decorative over mantle mirrors, an abundance of sumptuous fabrics, reds, golds and greens, and, typical in the Victorian era, every surface has been covered in an ornament. 

I love that the ceiling is covered in the same wallpaper as the walls with the glorious chandelier taking centre stage in the dining room (below). Harold's top tips for napkin folding put us to test when we were presented with beautifully starched Victorian napkins (more like small tablecloths to be honest). Harold talked us through folding them into truly regal Fleur de Lis designs. Mine did stand up. Promise!

The Dining Room

The portraits on the walls (in their ornate frames) are all descendants or relatives of Queen Victoria, collected by Harold on his auction and antique fair sourcing trips.

Why share this with you? - well, Interior Designers are constantly looking at historical influences for design inspiration, giving it modern twist. Archived wallpapers are constantly being used, whether it is the same pattern in contemporary colour ways (as seen in Farrow & Ball's new parquet wallpaper) or used as a base to create completely new designs. Victorians also loved novelty, as do we - look at Abigail Aherns dog lamps with frilly lampshades. She is a great advocate for using lots of objects/ornaments to create interest in an interior, but getting the right balance is what makes it work in today.

If you love Victoriana, I would really recommend a visit to Harolds B&B, something completely different in the sea of boutique hotels and standard B&B's out there.

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