The windowsills of the House at Nab End have been draped with an ever-changing selection of coloured and patterned squares of fabric, while I’ve poured over magazines, pattern books and swatches, choosing fabrics for curtains and blinds. Every room is in need of window dressing, and this is a house of many windows, so the task of finding the right fabric for each one has been no mean feat. But I can’t pretend it hasn’t been enjoyable. There are so many beautiful fabrics to choose from, and the house is ready for an injection of colour, pattern and texture at last.
Although Nab End’s woodland setting lends a distinctive country feel, I’ve found myself drawn to oriental motifs and influences. Built in 1903, the house somehow continues to exert an affinity with the craze for Japonisme prevalent in the West at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth.
This affinity became even more apparent as I wandered around the Ashmolean’s exhibition Threads of Silk and Gold: Ornamental Textiles from Meiji Japan. These are textiles that were designed and made for fashionable Western interiors; important contributions to Japan’s flourishing export market following the country’s re-opening to the West in the 1850s after more than 200 years of seclusion.
A hanging in the exhibition, depicting storks and wisteria, dates to just two years after the house was built and is a stunning example of the decadent interiors of the time – all sumptuous silks, rich velvets, intricate embroideries and golden brocade. In my mind, travelling back through time to the early years of the twentieth-century, I could imagine any number of the exhibition’s pieces on the walls of the House at Nab End.
The bulk of our curtains are due for delivery in a few weeks’ time, but we still have one final decision to make – what to choose for the two arched windows on either side of the fireplace in the lounge? Whatever our selection, it needs to complement this clematis design, which will hang on the large sash windows in the same room.