architecture

Inside history's most opulent English houses

Published 8th November 2018
Credit: © Derry Moore | Prestel
Inside history's most opulent English houses
Written by CNN Staff
When it came to depicting the timeless beauty of England's historic homes, interior designer David Mlinaric faced a tricky question: "Where shall I begin?"
In his new book "Great English Interiors," produced with photographer and long-time collaborator Derry Moore, the designer looks at five centuries of England's finest interior designs, from the lavish dining room at Waddesdon Manor -- inspired by Louis XIV's state apartments at Versailles -- to a white stone hall built for Britain's first prime minister.
"The story of domestic interiors in England starts in the fifteenth century," writes Mlinaric. "Until this time, houses, as well as castles, were built with the primary purpose of withstanding sieges."
Haddon Hall is one of a handful of 15th-century houses to survive in close to its original condition. Comprising two courtyards around a central banquet hall, the building's interiors feature surfaces of wood, stone and plaster that are free from artificial coloration.
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The 16th and 17th centuries were a coming-age-period for English architecture, marked by a substantial building boom, according to Moore. When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries and halted the construction of new churches, the wealthy upper classes started building grand mansions instead.
These buildings were symbolic of their owners' power, as well as of history and tradition.
A room in the Chatsworth House shows a mix of 17th century shell and 19th century decoration.
A room in the Chatsworth House shows a mix of 17th century shell and 19th century decoration. Credit: © Derry Moore | Prestel
But as the architectural conservationist James Lees-Milne writes in Mlinaric and Moore's book, each century has "a perennially romantic history" that appears immortal. The 20th century was a particularly confusing period for British interiors.
"The modernists and the traditionalists opposed each other as fiercely as they had done in the nineteenth century during the Style Wars," writes Mlinaric.
Charleston House in East Sussex, where the painters Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell lived, was built at the height of World War I. Best known for its remarkable furniture, antiques and embroidered textiles, every single room in the house is -- tradition be damned -- painted in different colors.
Scroll through the gallery above to see more extraordinary interiors. "Great English Interiors" published by Prestel, is available now.