Exploring Charleston House:
an expression of early 20th-century art
In our new series, Houses with History, we ask interior designers to take us on a tour of a house of significance that they have some relationship with, that has inspired their own aesthetic and approach to design. In the first of the series, Lucy Hammond Giles, Associate Director at Sibyl Colefax and John Fowler, invites us inside Charleston, once the home of the artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. Nestled between the hills of the South Downs in Sussex, Charleston was a gathering place for the artists, writers and intellectuals who formed the Bloomsbury Group. After Vanessa and Duncan moved there in 1916 to escape the horrors of the First World War, their friends and relatives flocked to visit, including Vanessa’s sister Virginia Woolf, Roger Fry, the founder of the Omega Workshop, the economist John Maynard Keynes, the authors Lytton Strachey and E.M. Forster, and many more. Vanessa and Duncan saw no particular distinction between art and interior design, and treated the house as a canvas, painting practically every wall and piece of furniture in their own distinctive styles. As a result, the house is not only a significant piece of art history, but a landmark in the history of interior decoration. Now a museum, the house attracts thousands of visitors each year who come to see how the Bloomsbury Group lived. In this video, Lucy considers the house from her unique perspective as a decorator, pointing out the most inspiring aspects of its design and how you might think of incorporating them into your own house.