Pitzhanger Manor in Ealing is currently undergoing major renovation work.
The Regency villa — redesigned by John Soane, and used as his country retreat during the early 19th century — has since been inhabited and revamped by numerous people (including the daughters of assassinated prime minister Spencer Percival). As such, it's lost its Soanian vivacity.
Now, experts are working on restoring the interior of Pitzhanger to how it looked when Soane — the architect who designed an incarnation of the Bank of England — lived here from 1800-1810. He described it as his 'dream home' and used it to entertain friends and clients including the painter JMW Turner.
Already the experts have uncovered unusual black floral wallpaper from between 1790-1800, in the north view lobby:
And the sienna and black marble bronze-effect paint which decorated Pitzhanger's entrance hall in Soane's day:
Further research reveals that the intense dark terracotta colour on the background of the ceiling rose in the drawing room was realgar, a highly toxic, unstable mineral. Though the colour will be restored to the ceiling, we assume it'll be done with a less-edgy substance.
The experts are also trying to conform indications that blue pigments in the eating and drawing rooms are the extremely expensive lapis lazuli or natural ultramarine (by weight, more expensive than gold).
Says chair of the Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery Trust, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, "We always knew that Pitzhanger was used by Soane as an advertisement for his design instincts. Now we know that he was breaking new ground in his use of exceptionally lavish materials to complete his designs."
The £11m project will restore the Grade I-listed house completely, revealing Pitzhanger's history and creating a major arts and heritage site, telling the story of Soane's life. It'll be London's second big ode to Soane, alongside Sir John Soane's Museum.
Pitzhanger Manor House & Gallery reopens in 2018.