The Family Bedroom. This room is undoubtedly an impressive show piece, containing the most elaborate and expensive furnishings, ideal therefore for its secondary use as the reception room for the 18th century Scottish nobility of the House.
The four poster bed centrepiece by Thomas Chippendale exudes luxury, and was by far the most expensive piece commissioned by the 5th Earl of Dumfries. The one of a kind rosewood bookcase, by Chippendale, which now sits in the Blue Drawing Room, was also bought specifically for this bedroom.
The strong pinks and golds of the original Axminster carpet, the rococo gilt overmantle with carpet-pile panel, along with the elegant and colourfully upholstered Scottish side chairs, all provide an abundance of colour and extravagance.
The Family Bedroom is a true statement of Lord Dumfries’ wealth, taste and social standing, and a sign of his desire to attract a suitable spouse, following the death of his wife in 1755.
The bed has been painstakingly restored to its former glory, having been altered once in 1868 by the 3rd Marquess of Bute. The original design, as shown in Chippendale’s Director, includes an intricately carved mahogany frame covered in 130yrds of the finest damask silk from Genoa. The three tier mattress has a horse hair base, and wool middle, with the finest Danzig feathers as the soft top layer.
A team painstakingly recreated the covered silk effect of the carved wood dome canopy and headboard as stipulated in the original design. This expensive alternative to painted wood involves stretching and carefully working silk into every corner of the intricately carved pinewood structure, which is then glued securely in place.
After two years of hard work, spearheaded by the Trust, this splendid and unique bed can now be seen as it would have first appeared when it arrived in Ayrshire in 1759.
Chippendale’s exceptional large and richly carved chimney overmantle, gilt in burnished gold, with carpet-pile panel and mirrored glass cost £17 at the time, and was his first collaborative work with Thomas Moore of Moorfields, who provided the rare inset English knotted-pile carpet panel (known as Savonnerie).
Rug of War
Thomas Whitty of Axminster carpets designed and made the floor carpet which still graces the room today (insert left). Whitty was a rival of Thomas Moore (whose handy work includes the carpet next door, as well as the overmantle Savonnerie), the two men being the only successful manufacturers of hand knotted-pile carpets from 18th century England. Wanting to compete with the highest quality carpets from abroad (from Turkey mostly) and with Moore’s award winning products in England, Whitty learnt his trade by spying on his rivals’ factories. Having learnt all he could from rival businesses, Whitty began to use cheaper materials and methods. Axminster quickly became better value for money, and despite Moore’s finer quality, increasingly became the preferred choice of carpet for the aristocracy, putting Moore out of business. Dumfries House is a good example of this and contains the oldest Axminsters in existence.