When Chatsworth House reopens this Saturday for the summer season, visitors will find 70 contemporary chairs integrated into its 500-year-old interior. Sitting back in Thomas Heatherwick’s Spun chairs (£375 from The Conran Shop, second picture) while admiring the opulent walls and ceilings of the Painted Hall will be encouraged, as will lounging on the Long Form Library chair (made to order, price on request, from Ifsodoso, first picture) in the meticulously carved Oak Room, or hiding out in the Hush chair (£2,700, from Freyja Sewell) in William III’s State Closet.
The exhibition, entitled Make Yourself Comfortable, is the latest contemporary offering from the Duke of Devonshire. Some pieces, such as Tom Price’s Counterpart benches (made to order, price on request, third picture) have been designed especially for the show and will go into the Devonshire Collection; others are famously familiar. Marc Newson’s Lockheed Lounge (loaned by the designer) sits at the end of the State four-poster, while Sebastian Brajkovic’s Lathe V chair (price on request, from Carpenters Workshop Gallery), inspired by 18th-century French furniture, is found alongside originals created by François Hervé in the 1780s.
“The chairs encourage us to look at the house in different ways,” says curator Hannah Obee. “They provide a hook to tell the stories that might otherwise be overlooked.” Take, for example, Nest’s Fin du Voyage chair (made to order), made from a suitcase once owned by a travelling salesman. It’s on show in the Scots Bedroom and represents one of the many suitcases that upper housemaids would have unpacked for guests attending Chatsworth’s famously lavish house parties.
Not to be missed is the sculpture gallery, which has been transformed by Israeli designers Raw Edges. Colourfully patterned benches and dainty stools rise out of a decorative wooden floor (fourth picture), so visitors can perch next to a Canova nude or admire a Greek bust while catching their breath. The duo were inspired by the marquetry found on the plinths in the gallery and have created similar floors for Stella McCartney stores. The floor’s presence unearths another anecdote. “The sixth Duke would have been delighted to know that finally his beloved sculpture room has a coloured floor,” explains Obee. “He wanted Swedish porphyry, but was made to settle for stone.”
For furniture with art-deco glamour, read about Bonhams’ sale of pieces from the Jazz Age.