Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin…. I am fortunate enough to have a fantastic job, I’m a Tour Guide and have the privilege of spending my days in one of Britain’s most beautiful historic houses; Chatsworth House is set in the heart of the Peak District and is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. This season is especially exciting in my opinion; the Duke and Duchess have an exhibition named ‘Make Yourself Comfortable’ if you hadn’t already guessed by the title, it’s a display of seating. But not just any seating, it’s an unique installation of contemporary seating in a historic setting.
Even more unusual is that visitors can actually take a seat on most of the pieces. Having a seat on these specially commissioned chairs can open up a whole new view of Chatsworth; in the painted hall you can relax back on the Spun Chairs, designed by Thomas Heatherwick, as you roll backwards your eyes will be drawn up to the famous painted ceiling. And in the Sculpture Gallery, as you take a seat, you will encounter a view from a new angle of the famous sculptures, here Raw Edge’s, Endgrain seating magically seems to grow up from the beautiful floor covering. There is even a chair which Madonna, the pop Queen herself, has sat on! It’s hard to choose, but I’d have to say my favourite is YOY for Innermost – Canvas sofa and chair in the West Sketch Gallery. I could tell you all about this seating, but I’d love you find out for yourself; it really is a chair like no other and I’m yet to see a person take a seat without looking confused but leaving with a huge grin on their face. This exhibition really gives something new to the route through the house. The items have a beautiful way of belonging in their setting and often reflect the original use of the room, but at the same time being a contemporary contrast to the history surrounding them. Waldemeyer’s By Royal Appointment Chairs in the State Music Room are a perfect example of contemporary meeting history; these chairs suggest a pair of thrones, and have taken the place of the Coronation Chairs which are usually in this room, but currently on loan to a museum. A question we are often asked is ‘why contemporary?’ Some people don’t think modern pieces have a place in a historic house, but as the Duke and Duchess have reminded us, each piece of art or furniture in the house, was at one time contemporary, in the 1780’s, we know Maria Cosway’s painting of Duchess Georgiana as Diana, Goddess of the Moon was often considered too modern for Chatsworth. I’ve no doubt that in another 200 years; some of these chairs will be considered historic treasures. So go on … Make Yourself Comfortable at Chatsworth House.
Interested in learning more about the exhibition? Join our curator, Hannah Obee, for a Make Yourself Comfortable tour on 26 June. The ‘Make Yourself Comfortable’ exhibition is on at Chatsworth from 28 March to 23 October 2015. wwwchatsworth.org – Lady Convivial