Dumfries House

Manor houses around the world provide many of our Efex decorative moulding designs.  These great houses show us the history of both nations and design. Some have been long term family homes, others have been empty for long periods of time. One such house is the fabled Dumfries House in Ayrshire Scotland.

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The story of Dumfries house is filled with intrigue and sadness. The house was build by the 5th Earl of Dumfries and was the first independent commission designed by famed architects, John and Robert Adams. The Adam Brothers style of architecture and interior design was central to what is now called the age of elegance.

The building began in 1754 when Robert Adams was twenty-six.  The house he designed was considered “an essay in pure architecture reliant on scale and proportion for effect. … it’s only embellishment is a crisply carved pediment replete with coats of arms resting on a bed of Scottish thistles.”

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In Robert Adams words “The grace of the exterior is matched by the lightness of the interior decor” Adams designed not only the exterior but also much of the interior including the stunning plaster work.

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And it was furnished to perfection. Lord Dumfries did not only turn to Chippendale – he also extensively patronized Scottish `wrights’ or cabinet-makers especially William Mathie.

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The pink dining room dates to the original home. Mathie carved boxwood molds to make the plaster trims. Sigh…. I would have loved to have known him!

Many of the pictures of the time were not only framed in in a traditional style but they were also some extraordinary examples of frames outside of the pictures,  “They run wild with foliage, pomegranates and peaches scrolls cartouches and masks all created for new furniture.”

The entry hall the plaster is original but was was colored and gilded in 1877

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The home was finished in 1760, but sadly Lord Dumfries who died in 1768 only had eight short years to live in his glorious home. The house passed through various relatives and was preserved but tragically the house was not lived in between the early 1800’s until 1934.

In 1934 the 5th Marquee of Bute took over the estate. It was almost immediately requestioned by the war office and then sat empty until 1956 when his the widow moved in. She was the longest member of the family to ever live in the estate staying there until 1993.

Sadly her grandson, the 7th Marquee of Bute needed to sell the house and so began another tumultuous time for Dumfries house. The Marquee tried in vain to sell the estate from 1995 until 2007 when he finally put the house and it’s entire contents up for auction.

The 2007 Christies brochure states “ One of the finest collections of British furniture it containing the only fully documented works dating from Chippendale’s illustrious Director Period. It was thought that some of the art and furniture might fetch nearly as much as the house itself.

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Enter, the savior of Dumfries house Prince Charles. Just days before the auction a consortium headed by the prince raised 45 million pounds to purchase the house and contents.

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This came so late that the contents of the house had already been removed and were in-route to London when the deal was finalized.

The 2008 global financial crisis had a major impact on the project. Despite much criticism in the press Dumfries House opened to the public in June 2008 and the restoration is now considered a crowing achievement.

Images from AD and Dumfries House Web Site.

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