When you think of “garden style” a handful of women come to mind, and Nancy Lancaster is at the top of the list. From Mirador to Colefax and Fowler and her beautiful homes in England, Nancy Lancaster translated Southern gentility and comfort to the grandeur of English architecture to create the places she called “home.” A long admirer of Nancy, I decided to put a group together with Margot Shaw of Flower Magazine to visit England and see all of her homes. Ditchley was our first stop, and it truly is an English dream.
The Virginia born beauty married her second husband, Ronald Tree, in 1920. Thirteen years later they saw Ditchley for the very first time. Nancy and Ronnie were both lured by the vast landscape, and once inside, it was as if “everything we saw… gave us the impression of a Sleeping Beauty waiting to be called back to life.” The two purchased the property and never looked back.
Nancy initially felt the grandeur of the house was heavy and wasn’t “quite so liveable.” Paul Phipps helped with the architecture, and Lady Colefax, Syrie Maugham and Stèphan Boudin all had a hand in the interior design. Although, Nancy and Ronnie had a complimentary aesthetic: Ronnie bought the furniture and the paintings while the arrangement of those pieces, and the fabrics and accessories, was all Nancy.
Nancy had a knack for creating ease and comfort, for respecting the past but also allowing for reinterpretation. With the grand came simplicity, comfort and a relaxed atmosphere.
Nancy had seven rules to follow to help create the look she is known for:
- In restoring a house, one must first realize its period, feel its personality, and try to bring out its good points.
- Decorating must be appropriate.
- Scale is of prime importance, and I think that oversized scale is better than undersized scale.
- In choosing a color, one must remember that it changes in different aspects.
- Understatement is extremely important, and crossing too many t's and dotting too many i's make a room look overdone and tiresome. One should create something that fires the imagination without overemphasis.
- I never think that sticking slavishly to one period is successful; a touch of nostalgia adds charm. One needs light and shade, because if every piece is perfect, the room becomes a museum and lifeless.
- A gentle mixture of furniture expresses life and continuity, but it must be a delicious mixture that flows and mixes well. It is a bit like mixing a salad. I am better at mixing rooms than salads.
The Great Hall
The great hall was a dull grey until Nancy found what was behind it – a sort of grey blue - confederate, how appropriate.
“Room essentials: Real candlelight…
And lovely flowers…”
The landscape at Ditchley had been untouched and unloved before the Trees got there. They asked Geoffrey Jellicoe to reinterpret the lines of James Gibbs original plans. The final design, although influenced by Nancy and Ronnie, has been suggested that Villa Gamberaia in Florence provided some inspiration.
View to the West Wing from the Portico
Some more snapshots from our recent trip!
Next stop... Kelmarsh!
John Cantrell from Indagare made all of our seamless arrangements!
950 3rd Ave #1600
New York, NY 10022