Master of Mirrors, Master of Light
It’s the GSM rule. The thicker the invitation card, the better the party. The relaunch of Pitzhanger Manor proved the point. Sir John Soane’s former country house – post a £12 million facelift (or rather major surgical enhancement by Jestico + Whiles working with Julian Harrap Architects) – on a stormy night was filled with lights and flowers and music and guests.
“Lord Lieutenant, Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen,” began Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, Chair of The Trustees. “The house was built 220 years ago. The library, 80 years ago. The garden room, three years ago.” He spoke in the garden room now rebranded Soane’s Kitchen. You guessed, it’s a café by day, venue by night. Designed by Jestico + Whiles, Soane’s Kitchen is an elegantly understated pavilion set in the walled garden.
Sir Sherard continued, “Every house is unique. There are degrees of uniqueness. Artfully antinomian eclecticism? That’s Pitzhanger. Not for Soane the menu de siècle. He dined à la carte. Pitzhanger is a cocktail of Georgian and gothic eccentricity. Austere and extravagant.” He praised the artist who hand painted the spectacular upper drawing room wallpaper: “Alistair Peoples, champion of Chinoiserie wallpaper!”
The inaugural exhibition in the library turned art gallery is by Anish Kapoor. Sir Sherard acknowledged, “Anish Kapoor sets a very high standard of excitement and artistic imagination.” The former Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan ended by saying, “Pitzhanger is at the intersection of art and architecture and design. It is Soane’s enduring legacy. Two centuries on, he stands so tall. Pitzhanger – the jewel in the crown of the rapidly reviving Queen of the Suburbs! A wonderfully uplifting zig in a world too full of zags.”
Anish spoke on the “amber melancholic Turneresque light” of Pitzhanger’s stained glass windows. “It’s like a fading yellow page of ethereal importance,” he observed. “I tried to play with it too. I do what I do. Let the conversation happen if it must.” The night ended well: a goody bag of colourful macaroons courtesy of Coutts.