Robb Report's 21 Ultimate Gifts: The Noble Touch

  • Sheila J. Gibson

Sir Humphry Wakefield is an expert on art and architecture, a noted interior designer, and the guiding force behind Baker’s Stately Homes program, which creates fine reproductions of furnishings and decorative items from aristocratic estates in Europe. He has agreed to help two Robb Report readers design a room, or perhaps even an entire house, if they wish. You will travel to Chillingham Castle, the 800-year-old estate in Northumberland, England, that Wakefield restored and decorated, and stay there as his guest for four days of house tours, private dinner parties, and other activities. The final two days will be spent consulting with Wakefield on design plans for your existing room or for your new home. He will select antique and/or reproduction furnishings, artworks, floor coverings, textiles, and decorative objects to create a new look for any room. Or, he will draw up the plans for an entire house, defining its architecture and designing its interior.
 
A room designed by Wakefield can take many forms. For example, he suggests a 40-by-30-foot room could include an 18th-century giltwood looking glass, hung above a magnificent white marble chimney piece originally made in 1794 for Ireland’s Lord Kenmare. The specially woven wall fabric could resemble the 18th-century fabric that still graces the great rooms in the Duke of Devonshire’s English home, and curtains made from the same material could frame the windows. Four carefully crafted columns made from rare, fine marble could be ordered from China, complemented by plaster moldings and skirting boards. The floor could be covered by 19th-century carpets, either woven or needlepoint.

Furnishings could include gilded, marble-top side tables and chairs from the 18th century, and replica 18th-century lacquer cabinets from Baker & Co. Antiques. In addition, a selection of replicas of furnishings from the Hermitage in Russia could be included, possibly enhanced by replicas of hanging crystal chandeliers and wall lights made for the palaces of the czars. A few modern elements—perhaps a well-lit sculpture or a few pieces of custom-designed furniture—could be added to bring the setting into the present. The final touch might come in the form of a whimsical but superb item, such as a leather and silver cocktail cabinet from Asprey.

Price: starting at $5 million.
Contact: Chillingham Castle, +44.1668.215.359, enquiries@chillingham-castle.com

The price reflects the costs of redesigning a single room, a project that would require at least six months to complete. Designing a house would cost considerably more.

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