Architecture

Dream houses: Blackwell, Lake Windermere

Blackwell

Blackwell – house on the lake

Blackwell is one of my dream houses sitting in a beautiful location overlooking Lake Windermere in the English Lake District.

It has everything to make you swoon – a stunning setting, spectacular views over the Coniston Fells and a beautiful interior.

It’s unusual for me to choose an older property as a dream home as I’m more inclined to modern houses like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and Taliesin West in the USA.

But this is something special.

Designed as a Lakeland retreat for a rich industrialist at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, Blackwell’s distinctive Arts and Crafts style is appealing for two reasons.

It’s exquisitely beautiful and extremely cosy.

The hub of the house is the Main Hall which provokes a gasp of amazement as soon as you walk into this impressive space with wooden beams.

Blackwell

The Main Hall at Blackwell

At first it looks like one big room but it’s a succession of spaces, some large and some small, including the central area, an inglenook fireplace and a minstrel’s gallery.

A series of hidden recesses with seating areas are cosy and homely – several of them overlook the lovely gardens and lake.

There are many gorgeous Arts and Crafts features including this panel featuring blue and green peacocks, a popular motif in the house’s interior design.

Blackwell

Peacock decoration

If you can drag yourself away, walk into the Dining Room where the same theme continues with another large roaring log fire, fireside seating and a gigantic wood dining table dominating the space.

The predominant colours are blue and green drawn from the natural colour palettte, reflecting the countryside beyond the house.

Here is a photograph of Tammy Tour Guide testing out the fireside seating and finding it very much to her liking!

Blackwell

Tammy tries out the inglenook seating

I tried to imagine being a guest at one of the sophisticated dinner parties that used to take place in the house in the early 1900s.

Even the dining plates and tea cups were specially designed with arts and crafts motifs like this charming piece with its flowers and tendrils.

Blackwell

Crafty cups

Room with a view

Further along the hallway was one of the most stunning rooms I’ve ever seen – the White Drawing Room, with sublime views over Lake Windermere.

Whilst I’d agree that this isn’t the most practical colour scheme for a sitting room with white walls and pale cream seating, it is extremely beautiful.

I loved that you could sit on most of the seats and reflect on what life must have been like for Sir Edward Holt and his family on their country retreats.

Blackwell

The White Drawing Room – 50 shades of white

The Drawing Room reminded me of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh House for an Art Lover in Glasgow with its similar colour schemes, craft designs and decoration.

Architect Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott designed the room to be filled with light – and on a sunny day it’s a wonderful place to sit and relax.

Some people have likened the room to a tree house perched above the landscape looking down on Lake Windermere and the Coniston Fells.

After sitting and contemplating the picturesque view, it was time to take a trip upstairs through the charming Minstrel’s Gallery on the upper floor.

Blackwell

Sweet dreams in the bedroom

Although the bedrooms are more restrained, there’s still much to admire in their design especially the arts and crafts furniture, fireplaces, tiles and ornaments.

Every single detail forms part of the overall design concept, a bit like those wonderful houses featured on TV programmes like Grand Designs.

The fireplace was designed by one of my favourite designers, William De Morgan, a leading light in the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Even this small wooden clock on the mantelpiece above the fireplace has carved wood decorations to match the rest of the furniture.

Blackwell

Turning back time at Blackwell

Each bedroom at Blackwell was individually designed and would have had its own colour scheme, something that I like very much.  What a shame that we haven’t managed to achieve that perfect cohesion of design in our own home!

The rooms contain furniture and objects by many of the leading Arts & Crafts designers and studios – Morris & Co, C F A Voysey and Ernest Gimson as well as Ruskin Pottery.

Every detail including the leaf-shaped door handles and lighting is designed to perfection to fit the overall design concept.

Sadly not all the upper rooms are as complete as Blackwell’s ground floor but visitors can still get a pretty good idea of what it must have been like to stay for a weekend in the 1900s.

I imagined throwing back the curtains in the morning and being wowed by a sunrise over the lake.

Home is where the heart is

Blackwell
Blackwell’s lakeside view

Since my last visit about 10 years ago, the Lakeland Arts Trust which runs Blackwell has done a lot of restoration work on the upper rooms.

This has really improved the look of the upper floor which appear much more authentic than before. They’ve also converted some of the spaces into arts and craft galleries with changing exhibitions.

But most of all, it’s the house which is the main event – it’s a really stunning example of what makes a great country home.

In its heyday visitors to Blackwell would have played croquet on its lawns, picnicked by the ‘ha ha’ and enjoyed a set of lawn tennis on the courts.

Today it’s a pleasure to walk around the grounds and enjoy the lakeside views, whatever the changing season.

Blackwell

To the  manor borne – Blackwell

Blackwell’s exterior may be plain and simple but it’s the interior design and ambience that are the stars of the show.

This is one of Britain’s finest country houses from the turn of the last century and its remarkable state of preservation means that it retains almost all of its original decorative features.

Home is where the heart is – and this house feels like it was loved so much by the people who lived in it.

It was a brilliant retreat from the stresses and strains of city life in Manchester where the Holt family had their main home and their brewery business.

I love relaxing in the countryside at weekends and can see myself living somewhere like this, even though the cleaning bills for the white Drawing Room might be sky high.

This is definitely on my dream house shortlist!

Blackwell

Blackwell – symphony in white

Tammy’s travel tips

Blackwell

Stained glass at Blackwell

Blackwell Arts and Crafts House is located at Bowness-on-Windemere in the Lake District.

It is open daily (except Christmas Day and Boxing Day) between 10:30-17:00 (winter closing is 16:00).

Admission is £7.20 for adults but children get in for free and there are concessions for students at £4. Parking on site is free.

Blackwell is 20 minutes drive from the M6 (junction 36), a mile south of Bowness off the A5074 on the B5360.

There’s also a really lovely shop (yes, we succumbed and bought an arty thing) with great contemporary designer goods, plus a cafe.

Also worth a trip in the vicinity are Lake Windermere, Bowness. Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top (in summer) and Coniston.

This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the Lake District National Park has many brilliant walks and places of interest.

Blackwell

Blackwell – decorative design

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