18 Stafford Terrace review
From the outside 18 Stafford Terrace just looks like a regular townhouse in a regular street -- it's nothing special at all. People must walk past it all the time and not give it a second thought. But if you step inside you'll be transported back to a time when the brightest colour in the world was brown, and the only sound in the house was a ticking clock.
You probably haven't heard of Linley Sambourne, but he was quite famous in his day. He did a lot of cartoons for Punch, and the illustrations for Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies. I wouldn't have known any of this either, but they make you snooze through a ten minute documentary on his life at the start. He was also a bit of a dab hand at photography, and plastered the walls with shots of his models.
The house has remained pretty much the same as it was at the time of his death. His son took over straight after, but he was clearly too lazy to redecorate because it still contains all of the original interiors and decorations from over a century ago. So what you're looking at is a Victorian house. I wouldn't call it an everyday home, though -- this guy was clearly loaded -- but neither is it a palace. It's just a very fine snapshot of life in the late-19th century.
The decor is all dark greens and chestnut browns. Whatever yellows there are, are just mustard-coloured gloom -- the colour of cigarette-stained fingers. There are lots of china plates and dried flowers, and stopped clocks on the mantlepiece; old photo frames and statues; oval mirrors that make your face look like a dusty portrait painting. Even the stained glass windows do their best to keep the light out. When you get upstairs the walls are covered in his photography -- those early attempts that seem overly posed and ghostly.
It reminds me of a Sunday afternoon round my great grandmother's country cottage -- the one who was born before the age of flight, and still had a picture of Queen Victoria on the mantelpiece. Every room looks like your grandmother either lived in it, or died in it. I'm not sure that I'd want to spend a night there, but it's an interesting way to spend an hour.
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