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Exploring Castle Howard: an iconic 18th-century stately home

Castle Howard in Yorkshire is one of the most celebrated stately homes in all of England, with a 300-year history stretching back to its original design by Sir John Vanbrugh in 1699. It has been the setting for multiple films and TV shows, including Brideshead Revisited and Bridgerton. The centuries have seen the castle decorated and redecorate time and time again, yet many elements of its original design remain, so that layers of history sit together comfortably in every room. The current custodians of the house, Vicky and Nick Howard, have brought in the interior designer Remy Renzullo to help with the refreshing of their private rooms as well as the more public areas of the house. “My hope is that they look as if they have been like this for decades,’ Remy says of his ongoing work, which involves small tweaks in some places and whole schemes for others. In this episode of ‘Houses with History’, Remy takes us on a tour of the castle, showing us private spaces usually unseen by the public, including the beautiful Temple of the Four Winds, as well as giving us his take on the spectacular 18th-century state rooms.

Released on 05/19/2023


[birds chirping]

[upbeat music]

Hi, I'm Remy Renzullo,

an interior decorator, and today we're here

at Castle Howard in North Yorkshire.

Castle Howard has been the home of the Howard family

for the last 300 years, and they've lived

in the house continuously since it was first built in 1701.

I've been very lucky for the last few years

to get to work on decorating various aspects of the house.

By far the most dramatic

and distinguishing architectural feature

of Castle Howard is the Great Hall,

which is crowned with the first dome

put into a domestic building in England.

And it's really triumph

in terms of interiors of the house.

The Great Hall is an extraordinary space

and by far the most architecturally defining element

of the house.

I remember the first time that I came here and walked

into the room and was overwhelmed by the beauty of it

but also incredibly intimidated by the thought

of contributing in any capacity to this extraordinary house

with this incredible architecture everywhere.

One of my favorite rooms

at Castle Howard is the Crimson Dining Room

which is the state dining room, so to speak, of the house.

And it forms part of the of state rooms

that are on the southwest facade of the house.

I love dining rooms.

I think that they can have such a warmth to them

and I think that they're just wonderful

sort of backdrops for great dinners.

They're also one of my favorite rooms to decorate

because I love fabric and pattern and texture

and certainly a dining room really allows one to do that.

Something I really love is one really gets a sense

of time and history sort of visibly written on the walls

and I think nowhere is that more evident

than somewhere like the Crimson Dining Room,

where you have some this wonderful Crimson Damask

on the walls.

And because the collection is always changing,

the pictures are always being moved and rehung,

you really get a sense

of the visible history of the room in here.

And I love the fading

of the Damask in some places and versus

where you can still see the original color,

where for a long time

there was a specific painting hanging there.

And because the collections always changing

and being rotated and rehung,

you really see the sort of the history

on the fabric of the walls of this room.

There's an amazing picture collection at Castle Howard

and some of my favorite pictures in the house

are the scenes of Venice

that occupy the walls of the dining room.

And this is just an incredible painting by Bellotto.

at night when this room is lit by candle

and filled with people,

it's just got a wonderful atmosphere in it.

And that's something that is really important

to me when I go to decorate a room.

It's not just the way that the room looks

but the feeling that it conveys.

[upbeat music]

Now we're up in the annex of the house

which is an area that I spend a lot of time in.

It's pretty amazing.

This used to be a bedroom wing

of the house when it was first built

and over time has just sort of evolved

and may one day be put back into a bedroom wing,

but for the moment it houses storage

for overflow of the collection.

It's an area of the house that I spend a lot of time in

and is quite important because when I'm working

with the family to put rooms together here,

I often come up to have a look around

and see what there is that I might want to use.

Whether there are lots of amazing etchings

and mezzotint and small paintings that are great

for bedrooms or to have a look at furniture,

it's a pretty great place to get to spend time.

The furniture selection process is huge for me

in terms of decorating and so I just have

so much fun spending hours up here,

looking at all the paintings, looking at the furniture

and sort of figuring out what things can I use?

And suppose that's a really amazing part

of working on a house like Castle Howard

is that I don't really have to go out

and find that much furniture.

There's so much here already that's sort of waiting

for a new lease on life.

[upbeat music]

Over the last year, one of the most exciting projects

that I've been working on

in conjunction with the house is a special collaboration

with Watts of Westminster, the fabric and wallpaper company,

in a project we've been doing to reproduce

some of the textile documents

and wallpapers that are in the Castle Howard Archive.

This bedroom, which by far is my favorite in the house,

is called Archbishops, and it has this extraordinary

what we call the Goose wallpaper.

This wallpaper is from the Anglo-Japanese movement

and this was installed in about 1884

by Rosalind, the Ninth Countess of Carlisle.

And she and her husband George, who was the ninth Earl

were extraordinary patrons of the arts of their time.

Rosalind embarked on sort of the largest redecorating

of the house since its inception,

and this was one of the rooms

which she worked on and still exists

in the form in which she had originally decorated it.

And this is something that we've worked really closely

with Watts on over the past year to reproduce.

It's been really fun to look at the trials

of the wallpaper throughout the development process

and compare them to the original.

And something in particular that we tried to focus on

was capturing the wallpaper

in its present form as opposed to how it might have looked

when it was first installed.

Because obviously having been here for 150 years

it's acquired a bit of a patina.

And in fact, I think that's for me,

what makes it quite beautiful.

And so we wanted the paper

that we're reproducing to have a little bit

of a sort of manufactured patina, if you will.

One of the great features of the house

are these amazing 19th century, or Polish beds.

They appear throughout the house

in a number of different bedrooms.

This one had quite a famous moment on TV.

It was dressed in its present form

for the original filming of Brides Have Revisited.

And while it's lovely in its present form,

it was made for the filming.

And I feel that given the beauty of the wallpaper

in this room and the amazing carpet and furniture,

that it is time for a little bit of an update

to the fabric on it.

And so that's something that we've just had a meeting

this week about actually,

looking at fabric options for this bed.

And so this will be sort of rehung and redressed

and new trim applied sort of throughout this spring.

[upbeat music]

In the admiral's bedroom,

this is a room I'm really excited about and quite proud of

that I spent the last couple of months working on.

One of the really sort of defining features of it

is this amazing fabric on the bed and curtains.

And this is again, a document that we reproduced

from the Castle Howard Archive with Watts.

And as part of a sort of celebration of the collection,

we decided we wanted to use it in this room.

It was really exciting to get to work on it

because the proportions of are amazing.

It's such a dramatic bedroom.

We spent a lot of time thinking

about sort of what what form the decoration would take,

but this was a sort of complete redecoration

of the entire space.

The room has this wonderful paneling

and we wanted it to have this early feeling

kind of of when the house was first built

in the beginning of the 18th century.

The idea for the color on the walls,

I had said sort of wanted it to feel

almost like that blue that you see in a Vermeer painting.

I was really fortunate to work with Alec Cobbe

who's an extraordinary decorator

and he immediately knew exactly the color,

the shade of blue for this room

and it just totally transformed it.

And then I love rush matting so much,

and Felicity Irons who is based in Norfolk

is the best woman in the UK that makes it.

And she came up here and installed this

over the course of a week

and it just suddenly changed the entire room.

And I think in conjunction

with the fabric and the furniture,

it completely evokes the feeling that we were hoping for,

which is of this very early 18th century room.

And so it's a space that I'm just so proud

of the transformation of it.

[upbeat music]

So now we're at the beginning of the East Wing of the House,

which is the family's private wing

and not open to the public.

And this is where a lot of my work initially was focused.

I just wanted to point out the ceilings

which have actually been recently restored

and I think are just extraordinary.

And this was all done by William Morris

in the latter a portion of the 19th century

when the ninth Earl and Countess of Carlisle

took up residence in the house.

Here we are in the East Wing dining room

and this is the family's private dining room

in the house adjacent to the kitchen.

And this was quite a fun room to get to work on.

Originally the walls were really, really sort of light,

bright blue that I thought was out of sync

with the use of the room at night.

And this sort of slightly dusty terracotta color

is something of a signature of mine

and really probably my favorite color.

And it just felt really right for the room.

To see this lid up with candles at night,

it has a really, really wonderful warm glow

and it looks great with the paintings in here as well.

But really one of the most exciting things

in the room is the cabinet behind me.

I'm quite a fan of porcelain and ceramics

and in particular my absolute favorite

are Chelsea Hans Sloane Ceramics,

which were made about 1760, 1770,

named after Hans Sloane who was an amazing botanist

and started the Chelsea Physic Garden.

And I had no idea when I came to Castle Howard

for the first time that they have

one of the best collections of Hans Sloane

Chelsea China that I'd ever seen.

I love it because obviously it's so beautiful

and the hand painted botanicals are wonderful,

but it doesn't feel too precious or formal.

And that was sort of the idea with the room as well.

And then it was really exciting to watch

the amazing decorators working on this room

who regilded everything

and just, the skill with which they do it

is extraordinary and it's so fun to watch.

[upbeat music]

In a place of sort of incomparable beauty,

it's hard to focus on one specific area, but for me,

The Temple Of The Four Winds might be the most iconic,

extraordinary part of Castle Howard.

This was designed by Vanbrugh

who was largely responsible for the house.

He was commissioned to design this

by the Third Earl of Carlisle

who commissioned him to design the house.

And Carlisle very much wanted there to be a relationship

between the house and the landscape and the building.

The Temple of the Four Winds were sort of conceived of

as a banqueting pavilion, as a folly essentially.

And it's not hard to imagine it

being sort of amazing for that purpose.

Certainly the floors are extraordinary

and it's actually motif that appears

in other places throughout the house.

This is a type of inlay that's Byzantine Roman called,

and it's often distinguished by the use of.

And it's for me,

probably my favorite sort of type of inlay.

And there's a fireplace in the house

the same motif as I say, it reappears throughout.

But what I love about this specific place

and its location is just, it has the most extraordinary view

from outside and it's a nice way

to kind of take in the beauty of the place.

There are a lot of moments being here

and working here where I'm still sort of overwhelmed

by the beauty of the place

and it never really gets all to look at.

And often I feel at a loss for words

in order to really describe it properly.

But luckily, Horace Walpole put it best

upon visiting here when he said,

I have seen gigantic places, but never a sublime one.

[birds chirping]

[gentle music]

Starring: Remy Renzullo