You may choose to think of Polesden Lacey as a landlocked ocean liner: a giant vessel designed for the amusement and comfort of the migratory rich. If the analogy seems far-fetched, consider this. The interiors were designed by Charles Mewès and Arthur Davis, the architects responsible, either singly or in tandem, for the eclectic luxuries of the Amerika (1905), the Imperator/Berengaria (1913), the Vaterland/Leviathan (1914) and the Aquitania (1914). For the Edwardians, variety really was the spice of life: hence the motley array of countries (England, France, Italy) and periods (sixteenth century, seventeenth century, eighteenth century) plundered for the delectation of Mrs Greville and her cronies. Whilst not exactly harmonious, the effect is never less than entertaining.
Imagine it’s 1909. By brougham or by motor, you’ve arrived in a crunch of gravel for a Saturday to Monday in the presence of royalty - perhaps multiple royalties. Your first port of call is the Blue Cloakroom (now a sad and institutional cream). During the winter months, you shed your sables in front of a cheery fire; in summer, your veils and dusters. After washing your hands (the rose geranium soap is from Floris), you steal a glance into the gilt-edged glass. If you’re a lady visitor, you might apply the discreetest dab of powder before you fluff your hair to its most becoming volume. Polesden Lacey is not a house in which it’s permissible to look anything other than your very best.
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