Fabulous Rooms – the Green Room at Winfield House

As we say goodbye to the Olympics in London (and well done old chaps!), and pursuant to my modestly athletic post last week on Winfield House, the U.S. ambassador’s residence in London, here is more on its spectacular Green Room, a fabulous room if ever there was. When Hollywood decorator Billy Haines re-modeled Winfield under the auspices of Ambassador Walter Annenberg and his wife Lee ca. 1969, the Green Room was considered his  most significant transformation. At the risk of gushing, I have to say I was transformed by it myself when His Grace and I earlier this summer visited HG’s old Chicago friend and current ambassador to the Court of St. James, Louis Susman and his wife Marjorie.

Green Room at Winfield House

From the Yellow Room you enter the Green Room at Winfield House, with French doors opening onto the lawn, site of many a 4th of July barbeque and Easter Egg hunts for friends and embassy employees.

The first thing that knocks you out is the the wallpaper, and then it takes a minute for the  other exquisite details to register — like the window pelmets and gilding, the trim on the curtains, the beautiful rug Haines designed, the fact that the Annenbergs did all this on their dime and then endowed it… But back to the wallpaper. It is hand-painted, 18th-century Chinese, with birds and butterflies frolicking among flowering almond and cherry trees, viburnums and peonies. The paper’s history is a little cloudy, but for sure it came from a house in Ireland called Townley Hall built in 1794 and considered a masterpiece of architect Francis Johnson. Chinoiserie was all the rage then. Still is in some parts.

Wallpaper detail - Green Room - Winfield House

Wallpaper detail. The pillow in the middle sits on the pink silk sofa. I sat on it myself.

The Townley Hall website says: “In 1950 this wallpaper was carefully removed, sent to Hong Kong for restoration, and now graces the Green Room of the American embassy [sic] in Regents Park, London.” (Note that Winfield is the residence, not the embassy. The  US Embassy is in Grosvenor Square) The beautiful and meticulously researched Winfield House, by Maria Tuttle and Marcus Binney says, “After purchase by Ambassador and Mrs. Annenberg the wallpaper was shipped to New York for cleaning and then to Hong Kong for retouching.” It doesn’t say when the paper was removed. Maybe the Annenbergs bought it years earlier to save for a rainy day, decoratively speaking.

Wallpaper detail of Green Room at Winfield House

Wallpaper detail of Green Room at Winfield House

The Green Room at Winfield House

The creation of three seating areas, as opposed to the arrangement of one large, formal salon, is both contemporary and comfortable, and enhances the room's livability.

Overdoor detail - Green Room at Winfield House

The broken pediment overdoors were modeled after those at Claydon House in Buckinghamshire. They are of carved pine, and pickled, lending a note of rusticity perhaps reflecting the American pioneer spirit, and I totally made that up.

The Green Room at WInfield House

The canape at right, one of a pair, is covered in a sublime pink silk trapunto. Said canape has been host to many a distinguished bottom; and some less so, like HG's and mine.

Pink silk trapunto on sofa at Winfield House

Trapunto, also called "stuffed technique," is from the Italian word meaning to embroider. It is a form of quilting wherein the underside is padded so that the stitching creates a raised, quilted effect. It is exquisite, no?

Walking along… we re-enter the reception hall…

Winfield House

The Green Room as seen from the Reception Hall.

Oh! And look who’s here now… First Lady Michelle Obama in the Reception Hall horsing around with some young’uns. To see another photo of Mrs. Obama all dressed up and with Prince Charles, Camilla, and Ambassador and Mrs. Susman, click on my earlier post on Winfield House.

Michele Obama playing with children at Winfield House

First Lady Michelle Obama was at Winfield recently during the Olympics to lead "Let's Move! London" to promote exercise, which is a big thing of FLOTUS's, and a good thing. Photo by White House photographer Sonya Herbert.

I also ran across a wonderful post about Billy Haines and his work in designer Marcia Zia-Priven’s Studio Luxe, though she does not mention his work at Winfield House. It is reportedly considered his last major project.

All photos from the book Winfield House, except the last of Mrs. Obama et. al., by White House photographer Sonya Herbert. More photos of Mrs. Obama’s visit to Winfield House can be seen on the White House official website here.

 

Posted in Blog, Decoration & Design | 8 comments
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8 Responses to: Fabulous Rooms – the Green Room at Winfield House

  1. Becky Roddenbery says: As I read this on a little vacation in Highlands NC the photos leave me breathless...again. Looking forward to your next journey and sharing with us your many fans !
    August 14, 2012 at 9:34 pm
    • Frances says: Thank you Becky and enjoy the coolness of Highlands - I am jealous!
      August 15, 2012 at 1:14 pm
  2. Betty Anne Q. Bush says: Fancy Frances, Thanks for the info on Trapunto!I just thought it was fancy quilting! Who knew! My daughter just called with.."Mom, I think we went there..Surenuf!! Had visited Winfield House when the Laders were there as well...(We knew the House Mother too! HA!) It WAS breathtaking! NO horsing around on the furniture tho... I did break out my "Elf" in the gardens. Voloptuous fresh arrangements inside abound as well. Love your funnies and your site! Hugs from NC ba
    August 15, 2012 at 6:11 am
    • Frances says: Betty Anne this is very cool! You were braver than I with the camera, however; though I might have given it a go in the gardens as well - good for you! PS - Your book plate is on the way! Sorry it took me so long... x fs
      August 15, 2012 at 1:16 pm
  3. Sarah Carter says: What a totally fabulous space! No wonder you were so overcome. And did you smuggle your little digital in and shoot the "trapunto" discretely while you rested your semi-distinquished bottoms? - ha!
    August 15, 2012 at 7:17 am
    • Frances says: Sarah - no! I was way too chicken even to ask to take a picture. That trapunto detail photo is from the front of the book Winfield House referenced in the post.
      August 15, 2012 at 1:26 pm
  4. Kate Firestone. says: We were in London just when the Annenbergs finished the fabulous re-do. Previously the house was very staid and uninteresting. London and we were bowled over by the new look. There was no lack of elegance but such a joyful zest of color and light. The details of ornamentation blew us Brits away. Thank you Frances for reminding us.
    August 15, 2012 at 2:13 pm
    • Frances says: Oh and thank you Kate for your story. It has been so exciting to hear from others who've been there and there impressions. Of course you were just a child in the Annenbergs' days...
      August 15, 2012 at 3:55 pm