Now that the sun is (sporadically) here, the days are getting longer and flowers are starting to appear, we’ve decided it’s officially springtime and time for us to start exploring again! And where else to start but Standen House, a National Trust property near East Grinstead in Surrey.
An Arts and Crafts property, the house was designed by Philip Webb, a friend of William Morris. It was designed in keeping with the Arts and Crafts aesthetic, where the everyday domestic object was exalted through thoughtful and pleasing design, and thus William Morris’s Golden Rule: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”. This stunning coffee table showed this perfectly [I love the geometric patterns].
The house was one of the first to be designed with electricity in mind, and retains all the original electric light features, so the pool room was wonderfully cosy.
In fact, the original fixtures now use the National Trust’s own special filament light bulbs – just like a cool London wine bar (but even better!).
There were William Morris prints and patterns throughout the house, many still preserved as wallpaper [some of which was authentic, although most was reproduced].
The house was passed into the Trust’s hands in 1972, after the death of the second Beale family daughter, for whose parents the house was built, so the rooms are preserved as the family would have lived in them in 1925. What struck us about the house particularly was how complete the design was; from the fittings, as mentioned, through to the soft furnishings, furniture and artwork.
During our visit, there was an exhibition on display: Kaffe at Standen. Kaffe Fassett is a textile artist, focussing on knitting, needlework and patchwork, who cites Morris as an inspiration. He says: “We have the same motivation the two of us, we want to make the world a kind of more interesting and delicious place with colour and pattern.” His horticultural cushions and quilt can be seen on the sofa and wall hanging below, and Kaffe was right – there certainly is plenty of colour and pattern!
We explored the 12 acres of garden after the house, and the camellias stood out as pops of colour in the springtime. Daffodils were everywhere, but we’d love to come back and see the formal gardens in the height of summer.
So what did we think of Standen? We have a soft spot for the homemade, pastoral Britishness of the Arts and Crafts movement, and this was showcased beautifully at Standen. The café was, crucially, excellent – they even had gluten-free cake, which was exciting for my recently diagnosed digestive problems (get ready to see more wheat-related Sunday café reviews!). It’s not fair to fully comment on the garden in March, but even so there were gorgeous signs of spring everywhere. The one thing we noticed is that it’s not one of the National Trust properties particularly aimed at children, though one of the rooms was equipped with a drawing table, but that wasn’t an issue for us! There is a cluster of properties in the area, so we’d recommend combining a couple for a day out.
Have you been to Standen? Would you recommend it? Leave a note in the comments below.