Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Gribloch, a house in Stirlingshire designed by Basil Spence in the 1930s, is described by Alan Powers in The Twentieth Century House in Britain:

"Spence was skilled at bridging the gap between tradition and Modernism, as he demonstrated at Coventry Cathedral, which made his name in 1951 - the same year that Country life published Gribloch. 

" .... the shallow curve of the entrance front at Gribloch, terminating in a balconied bow window, with smooth, white-painted surfaces, was directly inspired by the Regency."

This post is about the color of the decoration of the house. Whereas the architecture might be a bridge between modernism and tradition the decoration of the inside, attributed to John Hill of Green and Abbott "leaders in Vogue Regency style."  

The staircase above and below was the centerpiece of the oval hall that had a cornice of shells and rope, and was furnished with shell chairs and a shell and rope patterned carpet in turquoise, pale blues and mauve.  The staircase itself was designed in Paris by Raymond Stubes but the wrought iron balustrade topped by an aluminum rail was made in Edinburgh. 

The color scheme of the drawing room, not shown, was a pale-blue ceiling, plum carpet and oyster walls.  The curtains, hand-painted, had a large-scale floral pattern of plum, lime green, pale blue and pink. 

By the 1930s, there were no surviving complete Regency decorative schemes - color had faded and been overlaid with smoke from coal, lamps and cigars, silks rotted at the windows and the fugitive dyes of the damasks on the walls were utterly flown. Regency colors, or those thought to be Regency colors, no doubt appeared pallid, much as did the Colonial colors popularized by Colonial Revival decorators in the US. 

We can all remember those colors beloved by our grandparents - Wedgwood Blue, Old Rose, Pale Gold, Eau de Nil, Sage Green, Oyster, Old Ivory, Cream, etc.  All good colors in their own right and which still have a honored place in decoration.  For those of us in the US, seek out an older or even a present-day Martin Senour Williamsburg paint brochure.  Eventually, it became possible through spectro-analysis and other techniques to finally view the colors as they had been - strong and saturated. 

Strong and saturated, in bold combinations and on a Regency scale, had to await the arrival in the 1950s of one of the all-time great colorists, David Hicks. 


  1. Interesting post. Also interesting that you chose Gribloch as I just got 'The English Arcadia' book by Roy Strong, out of the local library and was immediately struck by the photo of the intriguing staircase.

  2. I need to get that book by Strong. I have a couple by him but not that. The staircase is in another of my books - I think.

  3. That is basically my dream house -the combination of tradition meeting the modern.

  4. Mine, too. Delicious combination.