Friday, January 25, 2008

William Morris and the Design of Red House

Certainly the most interesting piece of architecture left behind by William Morris is Red House, his home in Bexleyheath, Kent. Although practical considerations forced Morris to leave Red House after only five years, it stands to this day as a testement to the creative vision of Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites. The house is now in the possession of the National Trust.

Red House was built in 1859 and became a cooperative project that combined some of the best talents from within Morris' group of artist friends. While Morris' played a large role in putting together the elements of the house, his friend Phillip Webb was the house's architect, (Webb also sketched the birds found in Morris' trellis wallpaper pattern). Webb and Morris chose a gothic-inspired design and worked with natural materials, including the red brick after which the house was named. The rooms in the house were naturally designed--in true Morris fashion--to be not only beautiful, but useful. Webb's approach to designing the house was truly visionary, and he made every effort to use local, natural materials and traditional building methods (Todd 24-28).

The entire undertaking was a labour of love and it was important to Morris that the house's design fit in with his overall philosophy of craftsmanship and design. In fact, it was Morris' frustration with his inability to find simple, quality home furnishings that inspired him to begin creating his own furnishings. If it had not been for Red House, there very well may have been no Morris and Company.

As a result, the furniture within the house was designed by Morris and Webb. Phillip Webb even designed Morris' china and wine glasses! Many of the exquisite details in the home were created by Morris' friend and fellow artist, Sir Edward Burne-Jones. Burne-Jones assisted Morris by designing beautiful stained-glass windows and wall-paintings for the dwelling.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti also played a role in decorating the house, and he once remarked that it "was a most noble work in every way, and more a poem than a house…but an admirable place to live in too"(National Trust Website) . I would absolutely adore to visit it one day!

For further reading, see if you can lay your hands on a copy of Jan Marsh's William Morris and Red House(published by National Trust Books and available in hardback). It contains some gorgeous photography of Red House, along with delightful stories about it's construction and all the exciting things that went on within its walls while the Morris family lived there!

Source: Pamela Todd. William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Home. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2005.

1 comment:

FrenchGardenHouse said...

What a beautiful house. What a thrill it must have been, to have a home designed right down to the wallpaper, furnishings, and even glasses.

Thanks so much for visiting me and entering my blog GIVE AWAY!

xo Lidy