I have always deeply admired the interiors of John Fowler. For me, he is the only person who has been able to create the true magic of a welcoming yet grand English Country House. One of his very last projects was Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire which he decorated in 1967, just four years before he retired and the period which many consider as his best work.
The interiors of Cornbury Park have hardly been altered since the Fowler scheme was created there and to see it today is testament to his skill..it still looks absolutely perfect. Where most people would feel the need to fill such a grand house with Opulent antiques and furnishings, Fowler realised that understated elegance was the key to enhancing the architectural bones and creating a place of tranquility that could be enjoyed by everyone who passed through the doors. Instead of formal, French seating he chose down filled upholstery that was comfortable and welcoming. Instead of a rare antique object gracing a side table he would place a simple vase filled with flowers picked straight from the Garden. This look of comfortable elegance sent a powerful message..we are wealthy and we don't need to show it.
The creation of comfortable elegance. Antique art sits proudly amongst scattered upholstery, potted plants and wall to wall carpet.
When I read the news that Cornbury House was for sale for a mere £3.5million I knew there had to be a catch, and so there is. The price will buy you a 10 year lease, after which the ownership will terminate. In other words you are actually 'buying' the lease of the house which works out at roughly £30,000 per month for 10 years. Would you be happy to splash that kind of cash to rent a fully furnished, John Fowler decorated, English Country House?
The 'sale' of Cornbury House includes 14 acres of garden and parkland.
The Staircase Hall could be imposing but the pared down decor prevents that feeling. You could easily come in from an afternoon of hunting and feel quite comfortable pulling off your riding boots and leaving them to add to the charm. The rich yellow walls add warmth where the stone floor provides practicality. I'm glad the staircase was painted, I have never liked dark wood.
I am sure from looking at the floorpans that this is the Entrance Vestibule. I think it is so beautiful yet very simple.
The Drawing Room is perhaps the most formal room in the house with its silk wall covering and abundance of antiques and objects. Even so, there is still a wonderful feeling of comfort and charm. It seems there are some modern additions to this room such as the lamp next to the fireplace and the carpet. Look at the curtains!
A closer look at the Drawing Room reveals its formality with the gilded door surrounds, formal seating and more ostentatious objects.
The Ante Room next to the Drawing Room. I always smile at the sense of 'excess' of Ante Rooms; you have a big house if you have a room to pass through a room!
As with most Country Houses, the Dining Room is decorated in a regal red. In the days of candlelight this would have provided a theatrical scene with the flickers of light dazzling the glassware and porcelain.
In the Library a roaring fire coaxes you to take a seat and indulge in time of relaxation.
This Bedroom is typical Fowler. The extravagant bed is the centre piece and the beautiful sash windows which let light pour in are draped with classic curtains. Timeless
Comfort is key at Cornbury. Even the pets are considered!
I have always admired bathrooms that are decorated for comfort instead of practicality. I always struggle to understand why many people decorate their bathroom in floor to ceiling tiles when actually much more can be done. For me a bathroom is a place to relax and indulge in yourself. It should be one of the most comfortable rooms in a house.
This bedroom is so cheery with its yellow scheme.
All of the bedrooms at Cornbury have been designed as Suites, probably from the days of the Country House party when guests would come for the weekend and bring their own valets and maids. These bedrooms are so welcoming and comfortable, guests would never want to leave.
Isn't this pink bedroom charming? The whimsical bed hangings are just so fun!
So, would you be tempted to spend £3.5million on a house that is yours for only 10 years? To me it seems crazy..but those interiors make me question my sense of reason.