After a couple of years of restoration, Kenwood House is back. A gleaming white vision of Regency sitting like a content and plump dove after the meal of its life, most people unknowingly arrive via the back of it. How many famous buildings can you name where the front facade barely registers? Not many.
It couldn’t be a more beautiful day. Autumn has just about kicked us out but not before this crisp slice of clarity. It reminds me why winter is that most feared season. In the grounds stands this perfectly symmetrical tree. Elsewhere, ducks come to land in the pond like trickster surfers. People – all sorts of people – are the disciples of the modern age, attracted to Kenwood not just because of its mighty restoration but also for a famed art collection. We have arrived.
If you look closely you’ll see Rembrandt as an old man, one of his more endearing self-portraits. Gainsborough is also well represented. His most famous portrait, Mary Countess Howe, is here. As you drift from room to room, a smattering of classics adorning the walls, what strikes me is Kenwood’s intimacy. It is grand – but not that grand.
Outrageously pink, this hall is decorated in a fashion that would probably be frowned upon today except, perhaps, for a child’s room. In the same vein, its honest restoration is a learning experience for some, where bright colours – even pastel – are met with surprise because so many bad restorations have taught us that old means grey.
Nothing like a solid bit of wood, particularly when its carved into beautiful doors. We leave Kenwood House with a sense of remorse, a little bit of us wanting our own piece of it.