The Peacock Room should be on the top ten must-see list of any lover of beautiful interiors.
Last week while in DC. some unexpected free time led to a visit to the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery. The jewel there is the incomparable Peacock Room. This room, designed by James McNeill Whistler in 1876, was Frederick Leyland’s dining room within his London mansion. The British shipping magnate had amassed a large collection of Chinese blue and white porcelain. Whistler was commissioned to redesign the room highlighting this collection.
Every surface is a melange of colors rippling and blending together.
Whistler intended the room to be a “harmony in blue and gold”. The shades of green, blue, turquoise, and gold are intense and vibrant. Whistler captured that marvelous mix of colors seen on the neck of a peacock or in its feathers.
All works go together.
Lucky for us Americans, Charles Freer purchased the room, had it disassembled, and then reassembled in his Detroit home. There he filled the shelves with his own collection of ceramics. Freer believed that “all works of art go together, whatever their period”. This idea is proven within the Peacock Room as one views the items from Japan, China, Korea, Syria, and Iran.
The room brilliantly combines two goals. One, a beautiful interior and second, a vehicle for display. The porcelains are largely void of pattern so they blend into the room without dominating one’s focus. Their colors tend to be of soft hues with a few vibrant turquoise items and patterned tiles being the exception.
My daughter likes for us both to select one favorite piece when we visit museums. She selected a favorite bowl and vase below.
My favorite bowl is this spectacular blue and white showstopper.
A catalogue placed within the room showed a picture of these incredible gold sunflower andirons. Presently, a simple iron version stands in their place.
A second visit is required to see it all.
Unbeknownst to me, the shutters are only opened one day per month. Lucky coincidence allowed us to be present on this one day. Elizabeth de Montfort Walker happened to be visiting the museum the same day and posted about this fact on Instagram. (Side note: If you are a lover of beautiful interiors, views of Switzerland (where she lives), food, perfectly set tables, or Easter chocolate then you should follow her account.)
Leyland was displeased with Whistler’s design and its expense. Thankfully, he kept the room intact. This room is one that will be on the highlight list playing within my head.
Casa V Interiors would love to design a brilliant room for your enjoyment.