Posted: Monday, April 2, 2018 – 1:55 PM
Writer/lecturer Robert O’Byrne, a specialist in fine and decorative arts, recently visited the Beverly Hills Women’s Club to present The Royal Oak Foundation Lecture, “Romantic English Country Houses.”
A retired VP of the Irish Georgian Society, O’Byrne discussed 14 English homes—large and small, old and new—which all embody the intentional mingling of styles and tastes that encompass the “English look.”
From classical antiquities next to gothic revival pieces, to tartan plaid competing with floral chintz, the private homes showcase the layering of collections and styles ubiquitous with English homes. From London to Dorset, Staffordshire to East Anglia, and Northumberland to Suffolk, the timelessness of these properties and their many-layered appearances makes them alluring both in fiction—novels, movies, and television serials such as Downton Abbey—as well as in reality.
Ever since the English aristocracy embarked on a Grand Tour in the 17th century, the passion for developing collections has been a national trait. By the time novelist Henry James had moved to England and described English interiors, the country’s aristocratic palaces had become repositories of treasures gathered from across the globe. Almost every residence in England had amassed objects influenced by the spread of the English Empire. Around the same time, a number of organizations were founded to ensure that the finest examples of English domestic design and decoration would survive for future generations’ appreciation—most notably the National Trust in 1895.
O’Byrne is the author of more than a dozen books, including Luggala Days: The Story of a Guinness House, The Last Knight: A Tribute to Desmond FitzGerald, 29th Knight of Glin, Romantic Irish Homes and his latest, Romantic English Homes, which he signed for club members.
A trustee of the Alfred Beit Foundation, he is currently a trustee of the Apollo Foundation and the Artists Collecting Society. Among other work he writes a monthly column for Apollo magazine, and is also a regular contributor to The Burlington Magazine and the Irish Arts Review. For the past five years O’Byrne has written an award-winning blog, www.theirishaesthete.com.