The Refurbishment Project
This magnificent house underwent a major refurbishment during 2012 and 2013 with generous support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and a number of other donors. Eight rooms were redecorated and reinterpreted, focusing on the principal Adam Rooms and the Art Collection.
Now the decoration is restored, the slate roof repaired, and the internationally acclaimed collection of Old Masters and British paintings, the Iveagh Bequest, has been rehung in the south front rooms.
Kenwood by Adam and Repton
Kenwood is a masterpiece created by the famous 18th-century architect Robert Adam. A plain brick villa 250 years ago, it was a neoclassical triumph by 1779, ‘amazingly gay, magnificent, beautiful and picturesque’, in the words of Adam himself.
Adam transformed Kenwood to befit the status of the celebrity judge of his day, the Lord Chief Justice, William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield.
Mansfield’s nephew and heir took on the gardens and continued the work of the 1st Earl, employing one of the greatest landscape designers of the 18th century, Humphry Repton, to create a setting worthy of the house.
Repton vowed that when he had finished, the view would be ‘superior in splendour to most others in the kingdom’.
Painstaking research, hard work and some thrilling discoveries made during the course of the project produced the striking results now on display.
When Lord Iveagh bequeathed Kenwood and his incredible art collection to the nation in 1927, he did so with the intention that it should be open and free for the public to enjoy.
The south front rooms were much altered after Robert Adam's work of the 1760s and 1770s. They were converted for use as an art gallery in the 1920s, for the Old Master and British paintings bequeathed to the nation by Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh (1847-1927).
Today, prompted by the Iveagh Bequest Act of 1929, the rooms have been refurbished to represent the 'artistic home of a gentleman of the 18th century', as was Lord Iveagh's wish.
See our top 10 of the beautiful artwork at Kenwood.
The Library or 'Great Room' was described by Adam's contemporaries as 'Superior to any thing of the kind in England'. Today after two centuries of changing fashion, this marvel of Kenwood is revealed in its original glory. Over 400 paint samples taken by English Heritage revealed the colours George Steuart first applied to the library's walls. The samples also showed that Adam adjusted his own designs during the process of decoration. He used almost no gilding - research showed it was added later, between 1793 and 1815 - and so today it has been reversibly painted over.
The room is presented as it was at the time of the 1st Earl, using bills and an inventory as evidence, now in the Mansfield archive at Scone Palace. Watercolour design drawings by Adam and his office provided useful evidence in piecing together the original decorative scheme.
More restored colours
The colour scheme of the house exterior was best matched to that chosen by the 2nd Earl, when the house had reached the form it is today. The 2nd Earl made additions to the house in the 1790s, such as the service wing and the north wing. Paint analysis revealed that he had chosen a sanded paint, which has now been recreated.
Adam's blue colours again adorn the walls of the entrance hall, beautifully complementing Antonio Zucchi's 1773 ceiling paintings of Bacchus and Ceres. There is a newly made carpet on the floor, and a fire is lit in the hearth on colder days. Visitors to this glorious house may now imagine stepping into the 18th century.
According to paint research, the great stair balustrade was originally painted blue, and today it is blue again. The walls too have been repainted in a blue matching the original, rather than the recent turquoise.
The antechamber was added to the house in the 1760s by Robert Adam, although its first design was drawn by Adam's younger brother James. It is now restored to its original delicate lead white and pale green, and its once-marbled columns are again white.
Find out how you can support Kenwood so it can continue to inspire visitors now and in the future.