Fans of "Notting Hill" might recognize the exterior from the scene where Julia Roberts is shooting a period movie on location.
One enters the building through a wooded path at the back.
You see the rear of the house first, which is pretty nice -- but doesn't hold a candle to the front!
And then there is the interior! The house was built in the early 17th century but it hit its peak in the mid-1700s when William Murray, the 1st Earl of Mansfield, purchased the home and asked legendary architect Robert Adam to remodel it.
The rooms are drop-dead gorgeous with rich details and beautiful and valuable art and artifacts.
Adam added what might be one of my favorite rooms of all time -- the neoclassical library. (Every now and then you realize you should have photographed something horizontally!)
Well, I did a little horizontal -- but it doesn't really show the scope!
It's like a symphony in candy colors -- pale pinks and blues with embossed Grecian-inspired figures, reminiscent of the work of contemporary Josiah Wedgewood.
The ceiling, highly arched and continuing the theme surrounding the room was glorious.
Here's a detail from the ceiling.
And I admired the tall columns supporting the room and how it just "worked" with the colors.
And the details! Oh!
I could have stayed in this room forever.
In 1925, Lord Iveagh, a wealthy businessman and philanthropist and part of the Guinness family purchased the house from the Mansfields and when he died two years later, he left it to the nation. The year after his death it was open to the public. The grounds were protected by the Kenwood Preservation Council.
Lord Iveagh was an enthusiastic art collector and the collection you see at Kenwood is extensive. What might be one of the most valuable paintings in the UK, a self-portrait of Rembrandt, is on display.
You'll also find a Vermeer...
...Franz Halls, Thomas Gainsborough, Turner and Van Dyck, among others.
The house has also been featured in films besides "Notting Hill," most notably the 1995 feature "Sense and Sensibility." Although the 2013 "Belle," about Wililam Murray's mixed-race daughter, was "set" at Kenwood and its grounds, the movie was actually filmed in a variety of other locations.
One could also find intriguing items like the first wheelchair!
It was designed by John Joseph Merlin, painted here by Thomas Gainsborough.
The lighting fixtures and work on the stairwell banisters was beautiful. So, too, was the gallery of portrait miniatures and mourning jewelry, though my photos didn't turn out so well on that.
Don't forget to look up!
I did, however, love this Asian-inspired fireplace.
It is a remarkable and lovely experience to see some of the world's great art in the setting of a private home, with furniture and accessories, as opposed to a gallery wall.
We are seeing art the way it was most likely created to be seen -- in a personal space. And it makes a tremendous difference in the feeling one has when observing it.
I would be remiss in not sharing some of the beautiful Kenwood exteriors. The building itself is a stunner, though I didn't get far enough away to capture the entire facade in one photo!
It is set on parkland and I enjoyed seeing people relaxing there.
There was a bit of fall in the air, too. I was missing fall in the states, so while I didn't see a lot of vibrant trees during our trip, this was a day that scored a delightful view!
I loved the little gift shop exterior as well. I may have to paint this one!
All in all, Kenwood is a real treat and highly recommended.
- Kenwood House is located in Hampstead and one can make a day of it there. We were fortunate to drive there. It is about a 20 minute walk from the tube (according to Trip Advisor) but the 210 bus takes one closest.
- If you drive, pay close attention to your parking meter time. They do, as we found out.
- If you plan to go by public transportation, choose a nice day as you may be walking across the heath.
- Kenwood House and the grounds are free. One can bring a picnic to enjoy on the grounds or Hampstead Heath or purchase food onsite.
- We didn't have time to check out the shops but it looked like a charming town to visit as well and might be worth a look.