Morris Apartment – National Trust Standen

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October, 2019

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Not only an Arts and Crafts house designed and furnished by Sydney Webb but a temporary exhibition of designs by Morris & Co. It is irresistible, but hurry: the exhibition ends on 10 November. Nonetheless, house and gardens are well worth visiting in their own right.

The house and furnishings were designed in close collaboration with the Veales, the intended occupants and both enthusiastic Arts and Crafts followers. As a result, the exhibition sits naturally within its setting. The only problem is deciding which aspect deserves attention at any moment.

The car park is being redesigned – not in Arts and Crafts style – so currently there is a steep walk past the garden to reach the barn cafe and house. Disabled parking is generously provided near the top of the walk, with access to garden seats nearby for the last stage.

The garden follows Morris design principles as well as taking advantage of borrowed landscape which, being the South Downs on the Kent-Sussex boundary is lovely. By the house is an intimate raised garden giving a flavour of the planting for those who prefer a less-strenuous experience.

Each room in the house is thoroughly integrated in purpose and decor, keeping closely to the principle that nothing should be other than beautiful and useful. Projections show how some of the Morris designs evolved and displays include printing blocks and of course the resultant fabrics and wallpapers. Detailed wallpaper has never been our thing but we found those both elegant and surprisingly restful. One room has transparencies for designs and Mrs Veale’s studio even has paper for visitors to try their skills on and their daughter’s bedroom has some stunning dresses hanging in the wardrobe.

The dining room has a table set for a meal with place settings for each member of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood. What a conversation would have taken place. A bonus is that William Nicholson painted portraits of husband and wife that hang in conversational relationship at the foot of the staircase.

This was one occasion when the usual shop before the exit was a place to linger in as opposed to dashing through. Of course the temptation to buy was tempered by the price but everything was highly desirable.

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