Whilst in the Lake District at half-term we visited Blackwell – the only building by architect Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott that is open to the public (and has been since 2001).

The visit reminded me just how much I love the designs of the Arts & Crafts style – the simple forms, the natural qualities of the materials used and the motifs inspired by the flora and fauna of the British countryside.  As you might expect, it was the stained glass that took my breath away.  This was my favourite.

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In each room stained glass mullion windows are positioned either side of the fireplace with window seats built into the alcove.  Visitors are encouraged to sit and reflect, to take their time and soak in the atmosphere.

The White Drawing Room is considered to be one of Baillie Scott’s finest interiors.  It is a beautiful room.  The light floods in through a large bay window and the views of the fells and the lake are stunning.

These columns support the mantel shelf which continues around the room.  They are topped by capitals of carved wood which branch out into leaves, flowers, fruit and birds.

Blackwellwhiteroomcolumn

The entire ceiling is covered in intricate plasterwork which has survived intact and this is the detail of the Rowan leaf and berry plasterwork frieze which extends around the room.  I am still working out how I can replicate the effect of shadow and light in my bedroom at home.  It was gorgeous.

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Blackwell dates from 1898-1900 and was built on the hillside above Lake Windermere as a holiday home for Manchester brewery owner, Sir Edward Holt and his family.  The Holts visited regularly until the death of their eldest son in 1928 in the First World War and subsequently the home was little used.  It was later leased (and used as a school until 1976 and then as offices) meaning very little was done in the way of alterations or modernisations.  This is the main reason so many of its wonderful original features are still in place today.

Can you spot the blue birds that appear in each piece of stained glass throughout the house?

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In 1999 Blackwell was bought by the The Lakeland Arts Trust, an independent charity which ‘aims to bring enjoyment and inspiration to people’s lives through art and history.’  Many donations and a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund has enabled the complete restoration of Blackwell which is now Grade I Listed.

Blackwelldiningroomglass_3 All images courtesty of The Lakeland Arts Trust.

From stained glass, decorative metalwork, intricate wood carving and hand-printed wallcoverings to marble tiled hearths and ceramic tiles, Baillie Scott has incorporated a wide variety of crafts throughout the house, many made by leading designers of his day.

I enjoyed seeing how the same motif had been depicted in various materials by different craftsmen.  The Rowan berries and leaves had been carved from oak in the Main Hall, block-printed on the hessian in the Dining Room, moulded in plaster in the White Room, etched in the stained glass of the Master Bedroom and even created from lead in the rainwater hoppers at the top of the drainpipes!

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For me it was a truly inspiring visit; the designs, natural materials and honest craftsmanship of the period, twinned with the latter day social responsibility of the The Lakeland Arts Trust, epitomise the Arts & Crafts Movement.

For those of you interested in introducing some Arts & Crafts style to your own homes I stumbled across a great design source Arts and Crafts Home.  I also recommend the book The Arts and Craft Sourcebook by Charlotte Kelley available from Blackwell’s bookstore.

For a beautiful coffee table book take a look at The Arts and Crafts Movement by Rosalind P Blakesley published by Phaidon.

And finally, for those of you who dream of owning an original piece by designers such as A W N Pugin, William Morris, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Dr Christopher Dresser, C FA Voysey, and E W Godwin, there is a sale of major works at Sotheby’s in March (via Jennifer at Design Hole).  There are some amazing stained glass panels!

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