A visit to Eltham Palace – London’s best-kept deco interior secret

Dazzling deco decor

It’s Spring Bank Holiday weekend. With an eye on the weather (rain on a bank holiday – surely not?) I’ve got a trip up my sleeve that will make any day fabulous. A visit to London’s best-kept interior secret… Eltham Palace.
Textile millionaires Stephen and Virginia Courtauld leased the long-neglected palace (the childhood home of Henry VIII) in 1933, and built a fabulous ultra-modern home onto its side. The Courtaulds enjoyed thoroughly modern underfloor heating, a vacuum cleaning system, electric fires, a telephone switchboard system by Siemens and a speaker system that let them pipe music throughout the house while they entertained royalty, politicians, film stars and musicians.
Guests enjoyed the most luxurious cocktail parties, but had to pay to make phone calls using the Courtauld’s specially installed payphone! The Courtauld family made their money in rayon, revolutionising lingerie and underwear in Britain with well known brands Berlei, Gossard, Aristoc, and Pretty Polly.
Eltham’s opulent, stylish interiors (shown in these wonderful photos from English Heritage and insideology.com) feature the bold geometric motifs and stylised natural forms of Art Deco, which still inspires today’s interior trends, 90 years after it first emerged in 1925. Animal motifs and world maps reflect the Courtaulds love of travel and the exotic, reflected in this portrait showing Mr & Mrs C with Mah Jong, their pet lemur who had the run of the palace!
The Courtaulds bought Eltham to be near London, but not in it. When World War II came along, the bombing got too much for them and they moved out in 1944. The palace has been open to the public on and off since, and English Heritage have just completed an exciting £1.7 million restoration confirming Eltham as the most fabulous and glamorous 20th Century interior in the country. I can’t wait to see what they’ve done.
To get in the mood I’m going to read F Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” – or maybe I’ll sit back on my luxurious leather couch and soak up Baz Luhrmann’s glittering film version with a Martini, browsing the wonders of wallpaperdirect’s own decor delights. Chin chin!
A lovely tribute to Mah Jong the lemur!

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