Hill House at Helensburgh in the west of Scotland

In October 2017 we found ourselves running around all over the place, from Norway to Lancashire, but the photos below are from Hill House in Helensburgh, much closer to home, well what was home when I was growing up, the west of Scotland. Hill House was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and he was incredibly lucky to be commissioned to design not only the house but everything inside it too, very rare for an architect I think. It’s only recently that The National Trust for Scotland has allowed visitors to take photographs of the interior. The house was built between 1902 and 1904.

Mackintosh was keen on light and dark so a lot of the woodwork is black, but really that serves to be a wonderful contrast to the beautiful cream coloured rooms. It was practical too I think as the hall and stairs are dark, places that would have been quite difficult to keep looking absolutely pristine, especially as this was designed as a family home – for the Scottish publisher Walter Blackie. If you have some old Blackie books the binding will almost certainly have been designed by Mackintosh.

The photo below is of a small hall table as you can see the design is arts and crafts. His designs are a mixture of arts and crafts, art nouveau and Japanese.

Hill House Hall table at Helensburgh

A very dark stairwell entrance below, unfortunately very difficult to photograph becaus eof the wall light.

stairwell entrance

The drawing room below has a handy niche for the baby grand and as you can see the room is nice and bright.

Drawing room 1

Below is another view of the drawing room.

Drawing room

And another view of the drawing room. Mackintosh and his wife Margaret Macdonald worked as a team on this project with Margaret designing and making some of the art works and soft furnishings.
Drawing room 3

She embroidered the settee backs which are still in reasonable condition considering how old they are now.
Drawing room 4

Drawing room 7

I have plenty more photos but they can wait for another blogpost. Sadly Mackintosh used Portland cement on the exterior of the building, it was a ‘new wonder product’ according to the manufacturers. But in the damp climate of the west of Scotland it was a disastrous choice as it drew the moisture into the fabric of the building causing lots of problems. Now they are even thinking about building a huge glass structure over the whole house to try to preserve it. Desperate measures!

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum again

The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley – as good old Robert Burns said, and so after really looking forward to the autumn holidays we ended up not being able to go away, just as well we hadn’t actually booked anything. When a good builder knocks on your door and says he can fit you in earlier than planned you just have to grab him rather than wait until the spring. So the west, Oban and the Isle of Mull will have to wait. We only managed one day in Glasgow instead and chose to go to the Kelvingrove, my home from home.

They are very relaxed about people taking photographs unlike some places and I thought you might like to see some Charles Rennie Mackintosh designs and other Scottish art nouveau designers.

This is from the original Miss Cranston’s Tearoom. I love the designs but I’m sure that Miss Cranston must have asked him to design chairs which were uncomfortable to sit in for any length of time, fair enough I suppose, she obviously wanted people to move on so she could make more money.

These gesso panels by Mackintosh’s wife, Margaret Macdonald, are lovely – ethereal women are a recurring theme.

I think the stained glass is my favourite, it’s such a pity that the chair is positioned so badly here.

This type of stained glass is typical of what you commonly find in a ‘middle class’ Edwardian tenement building in Glasgow. This one is small and quite plain compared with some. The front doors and vestibule doors usually have stained glass or painted glass panels in them. I think this one came from the bottom of a window. The panel would have been fitted over the bottom of the glass from the inside. You can still buy panels like these quite cheaply from reclamation yards. I’ve got a few painted glass ones which I intend to make into light boxes – some day!

If you’re into CRM and The Glasgow Style you’ll want to visit Kelvingrove.