Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Icons of English Architecture and Garden Design

Edwin Lutyens, one of England's most renown architects, Gertrude Jekyll, the garden designer  with whom Lutyens often collaborated, and Vita Sackville-West, creator of Sissinghurst, one of the most beautiful gardens in England - all three of these icons helped to create the English design aesthetic and still influence it today.  They have certainly had an effect upon me.  After exploring the work of these three a bit, I'll end today's post with two kitchens from Plain English Design a firm which, even though a contemporary one, seems to suit the style of our three earlier icons.

Edwin Lutyens lived from 1869-1944 and designed many country houses world wide.   His roots are in classicism but he breathed "new life into traditional forms."  Gertrude Jekyll met him later in her life and the two collaborated on many projects.  Sadly many of Jekyll's gardens were ephemeral as gardens will be, but many of Lutyens houses still exist as seen in Sir Edwin Lutyens, by Elizabeth Wilhide (2000).

Below is Munstead Wood in Surrey, the home Lutyens designed for Jekyll and the garden is of course her own design.

Lutyens wall at Grey Walls made of a variety of stone.

A close up of Le Bois de Moutiers, a Lutyens design in France well known for its hydrangeas.

Another view with hydrangeas.
Another view - can you tell I love this house.
A view of its boxwood gardens.
Back in England and into an interior image from Lindisfarne seen in Wilhide's book.

A rather blurry image of the Lindisfarne kitchen.  Blurry or not, I love this kitchen with its display of blue and white transfer ware, copper utensils, and very English stove with tea set out in front.

Lutyens daughter's London kitchen gives us an sample of his furniture design.

Little Thakeham's (Don't you love the name Little Thakeham?) "south facing oriel window."  Lighting was important to Lutyens and "he took particular care over the orientation of his buildings."

Does much of Lutyens's design remind you of Bobby Alpine's?  Alpine has said that he has been much influenced by Lutyens as seen below.
google images
McAlpine's window below does seem much influenced by that at Little Thakeham.
google images
And the Lutyens-designed bench is still seen in many contemporary gardens.

Now onto the two garden designers.  First we will view Lutyens's collaborator, Gertrude Jekyll.  Jekyll, when younger, was an artist on canvas.  When her eyesight began to fail her, she turned to a larger canvas -  the garden.

The image below and those following are from Judith B. Tankard's book, Gertrude Jekyll and the Country House Garden.  I highly recommend this and the other books mentioned in this post.  All are inspirational to the gardener and the lover of English design.  Here we see a door leading to Jekyll's garden.  The rose growing over the door and the soil on its bottom are equally charming.  And the hardware!  It's all so English.

Doesn't get much better than this -  a Lutyens architectural design and a Jekyll garden design.  They were such a creative duo.  This is Munstead Wood, the home Jekyll had Lutyens design and then she surrounded it with her garden design.

Different view of Munstead Wood.

The gate below reminds me a bit of Frolic Weymouth's garden gate in Pennsylvania.  (My fantasy houses will all have garden gates.)

Her woodland garden.

Jekyll's drawing room at Mustead Wood.  Wish it were in color.  Do you remember the film, The French Lieutenant's Woman?  This room, especially the staircase, reminds me of the home Meryl Streep lived in at the movie's end.  If you've never seen the film, rent it.

Now onto Vita Sackville-West who, with her husband Harold Nicholson, restored the buildings at Sissinghurst and created lovely gardens to surround them.  (Another movie, this time from the BBC, entitled Portrait of a Marriage, has footage taken from the actual Sissinghurst buildings and gardens.  A real treat.  I'm just full of recommendations today.)  Someday I will visit these gardens, and I'll bet many of you have already.  For those of us who have not been so lucky as to see it in person, the following images (unless otherwise notated) are from Jane Brown's Sissinghurst, Portrait of a Garden.

First, a view of the Long Library which is in the movie - very exciting.  I remember how the door's latch sounded when Vita entered the room.   And so English.

Another view of the library from Country Life magazine's website.

Vita's writing room in the tower.  Sadly, mine looks nothing like this.

And now to the gardens!  The first image is part of the famous white garden with the Sissinghurst tower in the back.

Roses, both pink and white, clamber quite near those leaded windows.  (Love the word "clamber" when it refers to roses, don't you?)

After Vita, died, I believe Harold lived in this cottage rather than one of the larger buildings.  The cottage, and its gardens are utterly charming and could qualify as my English fantasy house.

Another view of the cottage gleaned from google images, probably taken by someone luckier than I who has actually been to Sissinghurst in person. 

An aerial view from sightunseen.com with the white garden very evident.

More complete view of the cottage (imagesofEngland.org.uk). 

And finally views of some very English kitchens taken from the Plain English website.  If you have not viewed their portfolio of kitchens, good - because I intend to use more of them while still in my English phase.  But seriously, it is a really good website and the homes all have wonderful names as you will see.

The Oast House kitchen in Kent.

The Merchant's House kitchen.  Such lovely cabinets in both kitchens.

Lots to see today and lots to recommend.  Hope you enjoyed the English design elements as seen in these three icons of English design and perhaps learned something along the way. Edwin Lutyens, Gertrude Jekyll, and Vita Sackville-West still have lots to teach us today.  Thanks for checking in.
Till next time-


  1. Billie,
    Sir Luytens is my favorite architect ever!! Jan and me are often looking at his houses for inspiration!
    Here in Belgium there is an architect, called Stephan Boens who designs houses in the Luytens style.
    Your post is gorgeous dear Billie! So much work you did! Love love love it.
    And indeed Plain English makes very beautiful kitchens, and I often visit their website yet!
    Thank you Billie for this very interesting post!

  2. Hello, Friend! When did you change your blog design? I LOVE the make-over....very fresh and stylish :-) It looks incredible. I thought I'd clicked on the wrong link. The old format was nice, but this is so fresh :-)

    Now to the big 3: I admire them all greatly!! As a passionate and frustrated gardener, I have spent many, many hours reading Gertrude Jekyll and Vita Sackville-West. And, Luyten is such an important icon in architecture / design. I toured Great Dixter last year, and was amazed by his work there.

    Sissinghurst has been such an inspiration to my own white garden. Though I've only visited once, I have studied this famous garden for years. It is my goal to visit each season.

    Thank you, Billie! I knew you had a big post coming up....great timing with your new blog design!

    Talk soon,

  3. Oh and I love Plain English kitchens....I always save their ads in English shelter magazines. BTW, you will have to tell me which UK magazines you like best? I love Country Living, BBC Gardens Illustrated, and House and Garden. Cheers!

  4. What about this one?


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