If you happen to be in England in the month of October, I have discovered a delightful field trip for you. Especially for those of you who share my passion (obsession?) for Bloomsbury. On Monday, October 22 Country Living Magazine UK in conjunction with Farrow & Ball is hosting a special day at Charleston in East Sussex, the home and country meeting place for the writers, painters, and intellectuals known as the Bloomsbury Group. Oh how I wish I could be there! Charleston is one of my favorite places to visit; it is a house that truly takes you to another time and place, to that era in the early twentieth-century when the bohemian group of artists and writers that included Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, Lytton Strachey, and Roger Fry were gathering together to create art and write books -- all different from what had gone before -- in addition to discussing everything under the sun. Anyone who is interested in art, decoration, gardens or history would love it. Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant lived there and produced art together for fifty years. All of their friends hung out there. To visit Charleston is to be transported to the incredibly exciting time of the early twentieth-century when modern art was exploding in Paris and influencing artists in England. Being there is to understand that creativity was truly the heart and soul of the lives that Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and their friends lived on a daily basis.
The Lily Pond Table designed by Roger Fry and painted by Duncan Grant
It is in Maynard Keynes' bedroom at Charleston
The walled garden, the house and its interiors are magical and memorable. The house is set in a bucolic part of Sussex, surrounded by nature and facing a pond. The inside is a riot of color and pattern and is decorated with hand painted murals, furniture, mantels, wallpaper, textiles, fabrics, lamp shades, bed frames, and anything else you can think of. It's an exuberant place, there are flowers and leaves in many of the designs. These artists were inspired by the beautiful countryside that surrounds the house and the garden was often the subject of paintings done by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.
Charleston has been restored and preserved so that it looks much as it must have looked one hundred years ago when Vanessa and Clive Bell moved in. The house contains so much history and atmosphere that it feels as if Virginia Woolf might pop in at any minute to visit her sister Vanessa who is probably in the kitchen making her legendary scones for tea. Duncan Grant may be painting in the garden and Lytton Strachey will most likely be reading in the library. Maynard Keynes and his new wife the ballerina Lydia Lopokova may drop by to spend the weekend, as his room is always waiting for him. He was such a frequent guest that he had his own bedroom at Charleston. It's just above the front door and looks out on the pond.
But back to that field trip on October 22. This is what Country Living and Farrow & Ball have planned for your day at Charleston. After enjoying a morning coffee you will hear an informative talk about Charleston by curator Wendy Hitchmough which will be followed by a guided tour through the house and garden. After a seasonal lunch made with local produce, you will hear a short talk about using color in the home by Joa Studholme, the international color consultant at Farrow & Ball. After that you can take part in a painting workshop, led by artist Sophie Croyndon, to create your own Charleston-inspired wooden tray. Doesn't this sound like a perfect day?