Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Its a cold wet day relatively speaking - 63 degrees - and not being at work because of Fall break at the university I am spending time in my library, not the one shown here alas, supposedly working but really just pottering, dipping like some daffy butterfly from book to book. Books are such a wonderful avoidance strategy especially when there's a pile of laundry awaiting, bairns to be washed and meals cooked.

However ... this library was designed by Mark Hampton, perhaps the quintessential 1980's decorator whose mature style was completely traditional, Anglophilic, erudite and immaculate. Described in a caption as having an English spirit, this room was designed as the fad for what was called the English Country House Style got into full swing, and it certainly does contain a number of English items: Regency bulls-eye mirror, William IV chairs, English partner's desk, and an Egyptian Revival clock and garniture on the simple classical mantle, but I doubt if an Englishman would recognize the supposed Englishness of it. Certainly, the room is imbued with a feeling of studious aristocracy, but its very neatness and emphasis on newness and name-dropping antiques places it very firmly where it belonged but no-one admitted it at the time - that completely American style, the Park Avenue Style, yet marketed as English traditional.

That said, this room is spectacularly beautiful. It remains classic after 27 years, even if it is long gone, yet easily gives clues to its time: four-tone painting on the door and door case; distressing of the paint surface elsewhere; picking out of the cornice; beruffled chintz on the sofa, marbleized floor, the bronze dog in the fireplace and the candlestick lamps.

The toffee color, an enveloping, allusive shade is used in a variety of tone and sheen and with this paint Mr Hampton did what the 18th century upholders did when they added gilding to catch the light, reflect it back into the room, and gleam in the shadows - look at the reflection in the lacquered wall around the mantle.

Comfortable, redolent, a place to relax, read and maybe write a cheque or two.

Photos by Peter Vitale from Architectural Digest, June 1982.


  1. Beautiful. Just needs a wood toned case for the laptop.

  2. I often think that my perfect room would be a library, a cozy room that has a rich color scheme that would make me feel like I was wrapped in a cashmere sweater, filled with books, and a beautiful desk, and a comfortable sofa where I could curl up with a good book. No tv in this room, just a laptop for blogging.

  3. Thank you both. My library is tiny and this one by Mark Hampton seems such a ideal space both in beauty and utility. A wood-tone case for the laptop sounds a great idea.