Behind The Blue Door

Afternoon Tea | January 25, 2016 |

Revisit the Grand Tour of Europe – on home shores

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The Grand Tour was once a commonplace, post-Oxbridge educational rite of passage for young British aristocrats, as they wandered through continental Europe in search of art, culture and the roots of western civilisation.

Travelling through France, Italy and beyond, the wealthy young men commissioned paintings and laid bare the cultural legacy of classical antiquity and the Renaissance.

The tour may have been at its peak 300 years ago but the art still influences design to this day. We’ve picked our favourites, inspired by those from the upper crust of the continent.

Urn à la mode

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Image source: Pentreath & Hall

Vases were symbolic in the ancient world – and the iconic shape of an urn makes it beautifully versatile for homewares. From ornate plant pots to stand-alone pieces, the decorative classic adds majestic charm to any room.

Pentreath & Hall is a great source for the contemporary and classic, both old and new. Its carefully-curated stock currently includes this early Victorian terracotta urn (£220), which has a patina telling a story of its chequered past.

French fancy

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Image source: The French Bedroom Company

From fashion to fine wine, France is famed for a strong sense of style. The same can be said for French interiors.

Finished with hand-carved, Baroque-style acanthus leaves, this Palais Avenue upholstered bed by The French Bedroom Company (£1,800) brings you a Parisian morning, wherever you live. Team with good quality bed linen, touches of gold and a statement chandelier – think the Palace of Versailles.

The new bronze age

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Image source: Houseology

A true classical material, bronze lends a sense of richness to interiors. Its warm, tactile nature makes it perfect for marrying with other finishes; its revival is seeing it increasingly used for everything from majestic statement walls to free-standing baths.

Give a Graeco-Roman twist to your space with this set of two Bresson on marble vases by Eichholtz from Houseology (£225).

The great cameos

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Image source: Wedgwood

Cameos of human figures have been popular throughout history – from Ancient Greece and Rome, through the early Renaissance and in the neoclassical revival in France.

With its classical borders, intricately-designed florals and golden finish, this Pink Cameo mug (£24) from Wedgwood’s Archive Collection makes for an indulgent tea-drinking experience.

Statement crystal

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Image source: Juliette’s Interiors

The facets and bevels of crystal prisms were hugely coveted across Europe during the 18th century, when Bohemian and Venetian glassmakers became masters in the art of crafting chandeliers.

Obelisks were another structure to strongly influence Ancient Rome – the ‘obelisk capital of the world’. This set of three crystal obelisks (£876) from Juliette’s Interiors combines the two to create an intriguing table centrepiece.

Vatican romance

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Image source: The British Museum

The Romans were hugely influenced by the earlier Greek style, bringing their own touch of extravagance and detail to the austere decor.

Three-dimensional sculptures from this period can add a rich, multi-layered look to a room. This head of Thalia sculpture (£375, The British Museum) is a reproduction of a Roman copy of a Greek original – depicting the muse of comedy and poetry. If you’re embarking on your own Grand Tour, the original can be found in the Vatican.

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