Continuing Tradition – Vaucluse Drawing Room
Vaucluse House drawing room – now considered one of the finest surviving colonial interiors in Australia – was built and furnished by William Charles and Sarah Wentworth in the 1840s. It has been transformed by experts for the next generation of visitors. The refurbishment has been a labour of scholarship, dedication and care.
Vaucluse House drawing room refurbishment draws upon authentic sources and traditional trades to re-create a room that the Wentworths might have known
The drawing room is now considered one of the finest surviving colonial interiors in Australia. It was built and furnished by William Charles and Sarah Wentworth in the 1840s. In 2017, we see it transformed by experts for the next generation of visitors. The refurbishment has been a labour of scholarship, dedication and care. No pictorial evidence of the original drawing room survives, so our only snippet of information is an auction advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1853, when the family was preparing to leave Australia for England. It listed a variety of furniture for sale, comprising ottomans, sofas and easy chairs in ‘elaborately carved rosewood’ and upholstered in crimson silk damask.
Without a fragment of this original upholstery, SLM worked with Richard Humphries from Humphries Weaving in Suffolk, England, to source damask of an appropriate design, colour and quality. As a significant original finish, the colour and design of the floral wallpaper frieze was an important reference point and guided the decision-making process. Midway through 2016, over 200 metres of this splendid custom-woven crimson damask was shipped to Sydney.
The furniture – including two single-ended sofas, stools, a pair of ottomans and five Wentworth-provenanced chairs – was expertly reupholstered by Carlos Rodrigues. Conservator Ben Stoner treated much of the furniture, including recarving a section of rosewood previously lost from one of the single-ended sofas. The window furnishings were created by Chrissie Jeffery, creative director of Stitches Soft Furnishings, and her talented team, using 19th-century sources and with input from architecture and interiors specialist Dr James Broadbent AM.
Essential to any historical furnishings project are the passementeries, or trimmings – bullion fringes, ropes, gimp, hangers and tassels. Some of the trimmings for this project were imported from France, while many others were custom-made for us by artisan Morrison Polkinghorne in Cambodia. The tassels for the box ottomans were meticulously copied from an example in the Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection. Our Soft Furnishings Group of volunteers painstakingly hand-stitched silk hangers into the wool bullion fringe for the window furnishings.
It is through the generous financial support of the SLM Foundation.
Worked on the project:
Humphries Weaving, Suffolk UK; Stitches Soft Furnishings; Provincial Upholstery; Ben Stoner Antiques; Dr James Broadbent; Sydney Living Museums Soft Furnishings Volunteers,
Morrison Polkinghorne, ‘Passementeries’.
What the Judges said:
“Described in the entry as ‘a labour of scholarship, dedication and care’ the judges could think of no better way to describe it!”