Long recognised as the heart and official headquarters of the British monarchy, Buckingham Palace also stands as a living record of some of the most lavish styles in British design history.
Much of the original interiors decided upon in the 1830s survive today, including some of the best-preserved representations of Regency, Victorian, and Edwardian design, full of formal spaces awash with vibrant colour, and furnished with treasures from the Royal Collection.
Whilst it was recently announced that the Queen will be moving permanently to Windsor Castle, the palace will remain a royal base in London, and it will play a central role in this year’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, hosting the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee concert.
Before George IV ascended the throne in 1820, Buckingham House as it was formerly known, was a comfortable but not especially grand London townhouse. It was the work of George IV, and architects John Nash and Edward Blore to turn Buckingham House into the great monument we know today.
The modern-day Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms, including 19 State rooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices, and 78 bathrooms. It also has a post office, cinema, swimming pool, doctor’s surgery, and jeweller’s workshop. The palace garden is the largest private garden in London, including a tennis court, lake, and helicopter pad.
Here, we take a peek inside some of the most eye-catching and colourful State Rooms that can be seen by the public on a visit to the Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace from 22 July – 2 October 2022.
The White Drawing Room
The White Drawing Room is perhaps most recognisable as the room where Queen Elizabeth delivers her Christmas address, although it is also the location of the famous hidden door that connects this elaborately decorated State Room to The Royal Closet next door.
The White Room serves as a reception room where The Queen and members of the Royal Family can gather before official occasions, or where key guests will be presented to the Queen before heading into a larger State Room to mingle.
Perhaps the grandest of all the State Rooms (there are 19 in total,) it contains magnificent English and French furniture in a lavish yellow brocade upholstery, white-painted walls, cut-glass chandeliers, and as much gilding as one room can take.
“The use of yellow can create a mellow and uplifting interior all at the same time. It transports us back to long lazy sun-drenched days in the Mediterranean and it can brighten us up on gloomy days. It works brilliantly with blues, teals, greens and reds, and for real crisp freshness use with white,” says Martin Waller, founder of Andrew Martin.
The Green Drawing Room
The Green Drawing Room owes its name to the green and gold silk wall coverings that were installed in 1834 at the suggestion of Queen Adelaide, who was moved by the plight of impoverished silk workers in Ireland.
It is another of the 19 imposing State Rooms at Buckingham Palace – and the first to be designed – and stands at an impressive 16 metres in length and 12 metres in width, with theatrical 10 metre high ceilings.
Originally, the flooring, walls, upholstery, curtains, and a selection of ornaments, were all in the same green shade, and latterly the vast area rug was replaced with a ruby red one – the royal decorators clearly never shied away from colour blocking.
“Clever use of colour can emulate distant places and heritage features. If you want to create an intimate and cosy space, emerald green packs a full, but at the same time, an understated punch of colour,” says Martin. “It can transport you to the cool tiled floors of Marrakesh or to the traditional drawing room of a late 18th Century Georgian mansion, and it’s being used more and more in interiors today.”
The Music Room
The Music Room is recognisable by its imposing scagliola columns in a bright royal blue. Its design has remained largely the same since its completion in 1831.
This is the room where guests are presented before a dinner or a banquet, and it is also used for royal christenings – the Queen’s three eldest children were all christened here in water brought from the River Jordan.
The dazzling blue columns, created to imitate the semi-precious lapis lazuli, are said to have cost £900 in 1828 (an approximate modern day value of over £100,000.) Furniture is French made, and covered in a bright red silk damask, and whilst currently painted white, the original walls were covered in an equally bright yellow silk. Another spectacular feature of the Music Room is the parquet floor of satinwood, rosewood, tulipwood, mahogany, and holly.
“Deep and rich tones of navy and Prussian blue look truly stunning in both contemporary and traditional style rooms and can be as striking or understated as you like,” says Georgia Metcalfe, co-founder of The French Bedroom Company. “If deep blue is too strong, you can incorporate it as glass, for example as glass side lights or pendant lights, adding colour to a neutral room.”
“Dark blues, greens and greys work really well with marble, brass and walnut. The rich background of regal blues, elegant greens and dusky pinks off set these natural elements beautifully and add real luxury to a room,” says Martin.
The Throne Room
Central to the sumptuous all-red Throne Room is a pair of chairs known as the Chairs of Estate, one used by Her Majesty The Queen during her Coronation in 1953, and its matching partner made for The Duke of Edinburgh.
Made from carved and gilded beechwood, and covered in crimson silk damask, their backs are embroidered with the ciphers ‘EIIR’ for Queen Elizabeth II, and ‘P’ for Prince Philip.
The Throne Room also displays a full-length portrait of The Queen with her dogs Willow, Vulcan, Candy and Holly gathered at her feet.
Buckingham Palace: The Interiors by Ashley Hicks, published by Rizzoli. royalcollectionshop.co.uk
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