Arranging travel plans and purchasing plane tickets is always a bit of a challenge. While booking my latest adventure to Cape Town, South Africa (come back for more on this one!), I found myself with an afternoon to kill in London. Numerous ideas of how to fill the afternoon layover danced in my head. Lunch at Harvey Nichols and some retail therapy (hello, AbFab)? Faced with a really short amount of time, I wanted to take advantage of every second. The idea of sitting for hours on end at Heathrow – while suffering from jet lag – depressed me.
Have you every heard of the Sir John Soane’s Museum in London? If not, you are not alone. To me it is one of the most magical places on earth. One of London’s most unexpected interiors – every aspect of which reflects its creator’s architectural ingenuity and extraordinary imagination. My first visit to the Sir John Soane’s Museum was when I was 12 years old. My family and I spent the winter holiday in London (then on to Stockholm to see family and friends). At a very young age, I was fascinated by all of the “stuff” and the “cool collections”. A kid in a candy store kind of moment. When I spent a year living in England, I would walk around the streets of London and frequently pop into the Soane on a Saturday afternoons. Admission was free, so I could spend hours exploring and studying the collections. I truly believe that the museum played a role in my becoming a designer.
I digress, I know.
Sadly, the museum is closed on Mondays, so my heart sank a bit. I sort of gave up on the idea. Sort of. Wouldn’t it be a dream to explore on my own and be able to take photos? (I didn’t have any as part of my extensive photo collection). I played this fantasy over and over in my head for years. Due to a group of fabulous friends, with a lot of connections and a bit of luck thrown in, my dream came true.
This past Monday, I had the most marvelous adventure, complete with a personal guided tour by the new director. Drawings and models of Soane’s projects mixed with collections of painting and antiquities. Pinch me now.
Soane was a visionary who used his home as a laboratory for his ideas, the repository for his vast collections of 30,000 drawings; paintings including Canalettos, Hogarths and Turners; architectural models; Greek and Roman sculpture and Egyptian Antiquities; 10,000 rare books, including first editions of Milton and Shakespeare, as well as his very personal dwelling space.
No discussion of Soane’s work would be complete without mentioning his use of light. The Museum is filled with mirrors, domes, fantastic ceilings and skylights with colored glass, used not only to light the rooms but also to create dramatic effects and to highlight the numerous plaster casts and marble fragments that are artistically arranged in every available space throughout the house.
Due to his foresight in leaving his home to the public by Act of Parliament in 1833, Soane’s house and its contents survive today, exactly as they were in his time, giving the visitor a rare glimpse into a middle class home of the period.
I highly suggest the next time you are in London that you pop into view the collections. It’s a one-of-a-kind boutique museum, filled with charm, character and stories around every corner. I think that you will see why I have been enamored with the space for so many years. You can also learn more about the Soane Foundation by clicking HERE.