The Spangled Dressing Room at Knole is home to a wonderful set of c.1670 walnut furniture that includes six stools and two chairs. These pieces were originally housed at Whitehall Palace until they were brought to Knole by Charles Sackville, 6th Earl of Dorset (1638 – 1706).
Having sat in the poor environmental conditions at Knole for over 300 years the delicate silk damask material is in a pretty bad state. It was decided that in order to protect the incredibly fragile and deteriorating fabric that protective case covers needed to be made.
If you look closely you can just about see conservation netting. A fine colour matched net that has been added to attempt to stabilize the fraying silk.
Historically case covers have been used to protect special pieces of furniture in grand houses from the ill effects of light and dust. Should an important person come to visit the covers could be removed to reveal the textile underneath.
Our 17th century furniture in the Spangled Dressing Room is in such a fragile state that many of the red threads have faded completely to beige. With dust from generations of visitors and light streaming through the windows the stools and chairs the silk has powdered on the surface in places.
You can see here the fading and shredding of the delicate silk.
New case covers have been made over the past several months to protect the fabric of the seats. Red custom cotton case covers have been carefully made around the furniture by upholstery conservator Heather Porter. Each case cover has been custom fitted in situ at Knole so that each piece of furniture gets the individual protection that it requires.
The case cover project was to design and make covers for display that resulted in an improved visitor experience. It did not involve treatment to any part of the extant upholstery. After the project the fragile condition of the upholstery below remains the same, but with increased protection from dust and light.
Heather has primarily used a burgundy custom woven cotton fabric to make the covers.
As you can see, the finished results are fantastic. The new case covers not only protect the vulnerable upholstery but really add to the effect of the furniture. The material sets off the rest of the furniture allowing you to appreciate the fine carving of the walnut frame in a new way.
Now that we have new covers on this suite it’s always possible more work can be done in the future. Heather has already returned to examine the possibility of doing some work on the upholstery of our Reynolds Room chairs as well!
Keep checking the blog for more.