This week has been dominated by beams - The Corinthian Column posted about them and I for reasons other have chosen photos in which beams are very prominent. Today's serving has nothing, despite what you might initially think, to do with beams but is more concerned with the changes made to the architect's original intention.
I don't want to get into a discussion about original intent but let me say that I do not feel that changes should not be made to what was originally intended. What, you might ask, would you put chintz on a Barcelona chair? Actually, why not? Its only a chair and not a holy icon to be approached with diffidence and reverence.
Some jurisdictions demand that changes must be approved before any work is begun so that which remains is preserved for following generations. There are two sides to the argument, for argument it remains, and having seen what was lost in the destruction of Pennsylvania Station in New York, I am a preservationist. However, time moves on, tastes and standards alter, and adaptations are felt to be essential.
The photos here are a case in point: a Lutyens house, one of his most famous and designed for the founder of Country Life to whom he'd been introduced by Gertrude Jekyll. I'm still trawling, by the way, through copies of 1980s magazines and came across these photos showing the changes made to the interior woodwork of Deanery Garden - changes quite drastic and probably irreversible, in terms of cost at least.
No doubt Lutyens intended that natural plaster, unstained oak, light brick and unfinished plank floors reflect and amplify as much light as got through the large but small-pained windows. Undoubtedly, he was aware that over time materials such as these darken and reflectivity decreases but perhaps that was part of what he thought of as the natural evolution of his creation.
In the 80 years since the house was built attitudes and standards had changed and what 20 years ago could have been seen as a desecration now looks completely right to my eyes. The house is lighter, less self-consciously medieval in atmosphere, and at this remove completely contemporary. Suffused with light, there is a jollity about the house, revelry almost, that is most attractive.
Liming, for those of you unsure as to the meaning, is a paint finish that mimics the effect lime-washing has on wood. It can be achieved on furniture with liming-wax or with white latex paint on larger surfaces, but the latter is not strictly to be recommended.
At its simplest liming is a rub-on, rub-off technique - paint is wiped on and rubbed off leaving residue in the grain and a glow of white over all the whole surface. Can be attractive but is rarely heard of nowadays, though it was terribly popular during the 1980s as were all paint finishes (what we now call faux finishes) and many a good piece of wood was limed to within an inch of its life.
As a remembrance of the Indian Summer of the British Empire, those years beginning the 20th century and leading up to the Great War, when Deanery Garden was built, it would seem fitting to give a suitable cocktail recipe, a Pimm's Cup perhaps, but given that the temperature in on-the-edge-of-the-semi-tropics Atlanta has finally reached 21 degrees at mid-day, I feel the need of something more warming.
I've chosen the Rusty Nail for its promise of warmth and also as a reminder of the effect water-based liming might have on metal.
The Rusty Nail
In an old-fashioned glass pour 1 1/2 oz Scotch and 3/4 Drambuie over ice and garnish with a lemon twist. In fact it sounds so warming, I might have one for lunch.
Photography by James Mortimer from November 1987 article written by Hugh Casson for World of Interiors.
Black and white photography from Edward Lutyens Country Houses: from the Archives of Country Life, by Gavin Stamp, Aurum Press, 2001.