Bloomsbury Style

Get The Look: Bloomsbury Style

The Bloomsbury group was an informal group of intellectuals, writers and artists that lived and worked in the Bloomsbury neighbourhood of London around 1910. The group had a number “members” but the most famous perhaps is the writer Virginia Woolf.

Over the past 105 years, the Bloomsbury group and their work have inspired film, fashion, literature and decor. Charleston House, the Sussex home of painters Vanessa Bell (Virginia Woolf’s sister) and Duncan Grant is now a museum open to the public. It’s often used as a location for photo shoots and film.

I’ve personally been very inspired by this country house. So I was happy to use my own Toronto home as the backdrop for a Bloomsbury story that my colleague Stacey Smithers and I produced for the March 2015 issue. (You can also watch an Online TV tour of my Bloomsbury-inspired home.)

Here are three tips for bringing a bit of Bloomsbury style to your own home:

1. Be creative with paint. The most striking thing about Charleston House is perhaps the paintings, and I’m not talking about the art framed and hung throughout the house. While those are certainly present, it’s the murals on the walls, the painted furniture and various painted objects that stand out to me.

To achieve a similar feel, I suggest picking up a paintbrush and some paint. Now, Kai, you say, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant were talented artists. What if I lack any artistic ability? I say, who cares? It doesn’t matter. I can barely make a recognizable stick man. And while I happen to be married to a very talented painter, I have a hard enough time pinning him down to help with small jobs like changing light bulbs, never mind painting me a mural. Being creative does not require a skilled hand, thankfully.

To give my narrow stairway some interest, I painted brushstrokes of Farrow & Ball colours from sample pots and then wrote the names of the paint colour beside each with a Sharpie. Farrow & Ball seemed like an obvious choice for this particular story since it’s a historical paint company (and actually one of the sponsors of Charleston House). And they have a curated selection of incredible paint colours with some terrific names: Arsenic, Elephant’s Breath, and my son’s favourite, Babouche, to name a few.

2. Embrace colour and pattern. You don’t have to go overboard here or go too bold. Many of the paint colours at Charleston House have a dusty quality — this likely has more to do with age than anything else — but there’s something in the quality of these paint colours that make Charleston House seem much more livable than, say, a bright blue and red Mexican hacienda. Pattern can be as simple as a lovely paisley throw over a plain slipcovered piece of furniture.

3. Live with the things you love. Curate and display treasured belongings. Artwork (whether it be professional or a child’s finger painting), photos and keepsakes (your grandmother’s clock or a memento from a special time) should be put out somewhere where they can be admired. Again, you don’t have to go overboard here. Things can start looking like an episode of Hoarders. (I’ll admit, I have to edit my home continually as things sometimes start to veer in this direction.)

The Bloomsbury look may not be for everyone, but it’s withstood the test of time with its warm mix of classic and creative. Try it out!

Pick up our March 2015 issue for more on this style.

Photo credits:
1-7. Charleston House

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  • danny

    ever since college- when I first studied art seriously, I have said I am going to do a Bloomsbury house someday- and I am planning for it now- this summer 2017- won’t a Bloomsbury house be perfect for the NW Coast house?.