Decorex International and Syon House; a conversation of taste
September sees industry leaders and innovators from the UK and worldwide descend on Decorex International to explore the latest in luxury interior and product design. The renowned trade show recently returned to the grounds of Syon Park, London.
The grounds include Syon House, the London home of the Duke of Northumberland, which boasts a suite of rooms designed by renowned 18th Century architect Robert Adam (1728-1792). Adam became synonymous with the taste, style and Palladian elegance of the 18th Century fashion. It was however noted that he “opted for vision over caution” meaning that schemes often ran vastly over budget and timescale; and had to be scaled back or had elements that remained unfinished.
Today visitors to Decorex can see many trades, crafts and designs in one place but in the 18th Century the aristocratic approach was to embark on a Grand Tour of Europe. Part extravagant holiday and part scholarly expedition The Grand Tour was the right of passage for many aristocrats. Encompassing European society, music, art and architecture, Gentlemen returned with an enthusiasm for classical design. Stylistic influence was combined with the purchase of fine paintings, decorative arts and furniture to be installed at their home as a display of taste and wealth to subsequent visitors. The influence on these young men was so strong that often entire houses were remodelled or rebuilt following a tour.
Robert Adam came to epitomise this quest for perfection in taste and was commissioned to remodel plans, often replacing an existing architect who had fallen out of favour or fashion. Adam produced architectural schemes and plans but was also competent at designing furniture, silks and carpets.
The Red Drawing Room at Syon House is such an example, with the decoration being dated to circa 1769. Adam selected Crimson Spitalfields silk wall hangings to line the walls and show off the extensive collection of portraits. The original silk hangings remain today and although they retain the intended warmth the original structure and colour is sadly gone. Research has uncovered that the original silk at Syon had much the same colouring as the three colour silk tissue at Audley End House, Essex. Adam started working on the scheme for Audley End circa 1764, 5 years previous to undertaking work at Syon House. It is however thought that the silk dates slightly later (1770’s) which is in line with the silk also at Syon House. Although the exact designs differ, they contain many popular elements in Adam’s style; a large floral motif surrounded by a trailing ribbon and bow. It is therefore not inconceivable that the silks were commissioned at the same time, using the same colours but with enough difference in design to be ‘unique’ and therefore chargeable as such.
Contemporary interior decoration is a more collaborative approach of architects, interior designers, trades and crafts; rather than the vision of one person. The same quest for style, elegance and quality remain today. Many of those unique relationships and conversations are formed at events such as Decorex International.