This bathroom at Houghton Hall is country house perfection

In an extract from our Country House supplement – on sale now with the November issue – Ruth Sleightholme considers how an interpretation of the antique chinoiserie wall panels in the grand cabinet room at Houghton Hall in Norfolk has become the starting point for an elegant and pretty bathroom
De Gournay’s reproduction of the design with an apricot pink ground, accented by woodwork in Farrow & Ball’s ‘Breakfast Room Green.Simon Brown

In 2018, Rose Cholmondeley contacted the historical wallpaper specialists de Gournay about an extraordinary discovery. She wished to discuss the elaborate chinoiserie wallpaper that decorated the cabinet room of Houghton Hall, the stately home in Norfolk of which she is chatelaine. Namely, that she had found three unused panels of the same set packed away in an attic. These had lain there for 230 years, unexposed to light and air. It was a remarkable find, and a testament to the effect of the elements on historical furnishings: these attic panels remained a bright and dashing blue, with vivid pink, red and gold painted accents, which had faded almost to monochrome in the cabinet room panels.

Simon Brown

Rose and de Gournay decided that they would reproduce the panels in the original, strong blue found in the attic, in the beautifully colour-sapped antique variation from the cabinet room, and a third colourway, to begin life as an installation in Rose’s own bathroom – a rather austere black and white room that she was keen to revive. Initially, explained Rose, she had wanted an emerald green ground for the bathroom but, feeling it was a little strong, they opted for a soft, slightly apricot pink, accented with woodwork in Farrow & Ball’s ‘Breakfast Room Green’. She took the black-painted floor to a softer brown, then went shopping for antiques – something of a favourite pastime for Rose. The freestanding bath (chosen for its generous length) was found at Mongers Architectural Salvage of Hingham; the wall lights with pretty red silk shades came from Vaughan, and just about everything else was sourced online from various antique shops. ‘The nice thing about a chinoiserie pattern,’ remarks Rose, ‘is that it gives you something to look at as you relax in the bath – the beautiful peacock above the fireplace draws the eye and is the most frequent focus of my admiration.’

The original chinoiserie panels in the cabinet room.Simon Brown

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