The Red House - William Morris' Experimental Home Posted on 28 Aug 01:00
Artist, designer, writer and socialist, William Morris (1834 - 96) moved into the Red House in Bexleyheath - in the rural outskirts of London - with his wife in 1860 and spent the next two years furnishing and decorating it, assisted by a group of artist friends he met through Edward Burne-Jones. It was aquired by The National Trust just 10 years ago and is now open to the public - I went to visit a couple of weeks ago!
Upon marrying the popular artists' model, Jane Burden, Morris commissioned his friend, architect Philip Webb, to design this modern house. For the creation of their unique interior he took inspiration from medieval art and architecture, and a love of nature and stories, fostered during a childhood spent surrounded by the English countryside. Morris and his creative friends felt the finished result was such a success they started their own company, Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co.
I wrote about Morris as part of my undergraduate dissertation and discovered how fascinating and pioneering he was, both in the art world and the political sphere. He was the founder of the Arts and Crafts movement and designed textiles, furniture, wall-hangings, and wallpaper, while also writing essays and giving speeches concerning inequality between the classes. His belief in the life-enhancing potential of art and beauty has always stuck with me.
The house and gardens are beautiful, it was the perfect spot for a picnic!
The window below was painted by Morris himself.
And the patterned ceilings looked strikingly modern.
I particularly admired these painted tiles and am glad to see that hand-crafted tiles and ceramics seem to be enjoying something of a renaissance at the moment.
There are also books of Morris & Co. (as the company was later called when Morris assumed sole responsibility) designs for visitors to look at in one of the rooms. Below are: Strawberry Thief, an early textile design; Golden Lily, by J. H. Dearle and Fruit, one of Morris' earliest wallpaper designs, which I love!
Wonderfully, Morris & Co. is still in business today, and you can read all about the history and the man himself, here.