Friday Fun: Houses of Famous People

I’ve featured quite a few writers’ homes in my Friday Fun series, and occasionally even featured some other celebrities. Here are a few old favourites.

Celebrity homes in Switzerland https://findingtimetowrite.wordpress.com/2016/01/01/first-friday-fun-of-the-year-2016/

Writerly homes in France https://findingtimetowrite.wordpress.com/2016/02/05/friday-fun-more-writers-homes-in-france/

An international selection of writers’ homes https://findingtimetowrite.wordpress.com/2017/04/21/friday-fun-more-writers-with-magnificent-homes/

More French homes to swoon over https://findingtimetowrite.wordpress.com/2015/11/20/friday-fun-homes-of-french-writers/

Some of these gorgeous homes no longer exist https://findingtimetowrite.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/friday-fun-abandoned-pulled-down-and-restored/

Expats in France https://findingtimetowrite.wordpress.com/2015/08/14/friday-fun-literary-villas-in-france/

Friday Fun: Writers Houses, Mostly French

I thought I had already shown you most writers’ homes in France, but it turns out I’ve barely scratched the surface. So here are some more, plus an extra one a little further afield!

Winter falls on Rousseau’s house in Montmorency, from museejjrousseau.montmorency.fr
Francois Mauriac’s little chateau in Vemars, L’Express.
An older house, for the playwright Corneille, from tourmag.fr
Alphonse Daudet bought this house from his first royalties, which must have been greater in those days, maison.alphonse.daudet.overblog.fr
Surprisingly, Jean Cocteau had the most romantic house outside Paris, in Milly-la-Foret. From L’Express.
Last but not least, this amazing House for Writers from Tbilisi, Georgia. From itinari.com

Strawberry Hill Forever!

I had the great good fortune of visiting St Mary’s University in Twickenham on a sunny day, which allowed me to take a walk through its lovely campus and visit its next-door neighbour Strawberry Hill House: indeed, there is a door leading from the wing of one to the old building of the other.

St Mary’s University leading to Strawberry Hill House (in white).

It was the summer house built to house the art collection of the extravagant and eccentric Horace Walpole, politician, art historian and writer. He was not all that rich when he acquired a plot of land with a cottage and a nice view over the River Thames in Twickenham, but he had very strong ideas about what he wanted to create: an architectural folly to entertain guests who would come upstream to visit him, a backdrop for his legendary literary and artistic parties.

Period view of Strawberry Hill House by E. Sandby.

He had a passion for the Gothic style and pioneered its revival a good half century or more before the Victorian revival of it. He even pioneered it in literature, starting a new genre: the Gothic horror with The Castle of Otranto. As he got richer, he kept adding another wing or redecorating the house, and of course he spent a fortune on his collections. Not just objects of artistic value but also of historical importance – for example, the clock that Henry VIII gave to Anne Boleyn on their wedding day or Cardinal Wolsey’s scarlet cardinal hat. Before visiting, I had the impression that Walpole made it up as he went along and created a mish-mash of styles without much thought and planning. But I discovered just how meticulous a historian he was and how accurate all his reproductions were (of wallpaper and silk hangings for example).

The oldest part of the house was a sort of two up two down cottage, and Walpole added a wooden turret to it.

And it was not all about extravagance. He was also astute at spotting a bargain – for instance, most of the stained glass in the windows was reclaimed from Flemish salvage yards. Unlike most private collectors, he was not about keeping it all for himself, but saw Strawberry Hill as a cultural centre to be shared with others. He started a printing press, and exhibited most of his possessions like a museum.

He had a wonderful life surrounded by all his favourite objects, showing them off to visitors, living exactly as he pleased. But the sad coda to this tale is that when he died without an heir, his entire collection was auctioned off. Fortunately, for a short time only, much of it has been brought together again (on loan or reproduced) and until the 24th of February you can see Strawberry Hill as its owner wanted it to be seen in the Lost Treasures exhibition.

You’re not allowed to take pictures inside, but I have to show you the promotional picture of the library, which can be hired as a wedding venue, I believe.

The view over the Thames has been lost, sadly, and the gardens border onto St Mary’s athletic track, but what other garden has got a shell-shaped seat with a whole book dedicated to it?

Friday Fun: Houses of Famous Writer All Over the World

This week I am wandering around Europe with famous writers, while next week I plan to go a little further afield.

Haworth Parsonage, home of the Bronte sisters. From Visit Britain website.

Dove Cottage in Grasmere, where Wordsworth lived with his sister Dorothy. From World Nomad Journals.

Camus’ modest house in Lourmarin, bought with the proceeds of his Nobel Prize. From Pinterest.

Caragiale museum in Romania. From skytrip.ro

Romanian national poet Eminescu’s birthplace in Ipotesti. From Wikipedia.

Victor Hugo’s house in exile in Guernsey. From Visit Guernsey.

Philip Pullman’s garden shed, from Authors’ Houses.

Schiller’s house in Weimar, from deutschland.yakohl.com

Goethe’s garden shed in Weimar, from planetware.com

Friday Fun: More Writers with Magnificent Homes

We can never get enough of the homes and workplaces which inspired famous writers, can we? Here are some truly enviable ones from all over the world.

Tennessee Williams stayed at this windmill on the Stony Brook campus and wrote a play. From Long Island Press.

Nietzche House in Sils Maria, Switzerland, from NietzcheGesellschaft.de

Rimbaud’s house in Harar, Ethiopia. After he gave up writing. Maybe he had a point, after all. From 3roadblog.wordpress.com

Gogol’s stately home in Moscow, from freefortourists.com

Tolstoy’s country estate Yasnaya Polyana, from Pinterest.

Gore Vidal’s legendary clifftop house on the Amalfi Coast, Italy. From Architectural Digest.

Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford House, on the Scottish Borders. From e-architect.com

 

Friday Fun: Writers’ Homes in the English-Speaking World

I’ve presented quite a few homes of writers and artists in France, but what about some homes for English-language writers in the US and UK? I don’t want to neglect Africa, Australia or New Zealand, so if you know of any noteworthy houses there, be sure to let me know in the comments section.

Evelyn Waugh certainly had plenty of inspiration for Brideshead, if this house is anything to judge by! From The Prose Blog.

Jack London’s study shows his passion for travelling, but also art. From QED.

It seems F.H. Burnett had some inspiration readily available for The Secret Garden or Little Lord Fauntleroy. From The Guardian.

Upton Sinclair’s home in California. From Pinterest.

Enid Blyton opted for the thatched cottage style. From Daily Mail.

As did Thomas Hardy. From Open Culture.

All right, this is in France again, but it’s James Baldwin hard at work in his St Paul de Vence study.

Finally, in this one you can actually stay overnight courtesy of AirBnB.

Steinbeck’s study in Pacific Grove, California. From AirBnB.

 

 

Friday Fun: Famous Writers and their Studies

There is an enduring fascination with the writing spaces and rituals of famous writers. Perhaps by mimicking some of their surroundings or habits, some of the talent might rub off on us!

Charles Dickesn in his purpose-built Swiss Chalet, the garden shed to crown all garden sheds. From Nicolebianchi.com
Charles Dickens in his purpose-built Swiss Chalet, the garden shed to crown all garden sheds. From Nicolebianchi.com

Rudyard Kipling was likewise not a struggling writer, clearly... From Art of Manliness.
Rudyard Kipling was likewise not a struggling writer, clearly… From Art of Manliness.

Hnery Miller did not even use his study much, other than for posing. From Booktique.com
Henry Miller did not even use his study much, other than for posing. From Booktique.com

Ernest Hemingway's study in Key West. From earthxplorer.com
Ernest Hemingway’s colourful study in Key West. From earthxplorer.com

Pablo Neruda looked out on a beautiful view, just as I imagined. From Pinterest.
Pablo Neruda looked out on a beautiful view, just as I imagined. From Pinterest.

While Anne Sexton looked at the camera, giving us plenty of attitude. From This Recording.
While Anne Sexton looked at the camera, giving us plenty of attitude. From This Recording.

Finally, Norman Mailer had such a fancy library-like house over two storeys, that he could not work there. He would go to write in a bare little studio a block away. From Art of Manliness.
Finally, Norman Mailer had such a fancy library-like house over two storeys, that he could not work there. He would go to write in a bare little studio a block away. From Art of Manliness.

Good fortune and good writing spaces are clearly wasted on some people…

In my next Friday Fun, I will show living authors and some more non-English ones.

Friday (Thursday) Fun: Writers’ Retreats

Some of them belong(ed) to writers, some of them are being used for writing workshops and retreats. All of them will predispose you to a bookish reverie…

Edith Wharton's house The Mount in Lenox, MA, organises 2-3 week residencies for women writers of 'demonstrated accomplishment'.
Edith Wharton’s house The Mount in Lenox, MA, organises 2-3 week residencies for women writers of ‘demonstrated accomplishment’.

Court Green in Devon, the house of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Picture courtesy of P.H. Davies. Hughes' widow still lives there.
Court Green in Devon, the house of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Picture courtesy of P.H. Davies. Hughes’ widow still lives there.

Lumb Bank is another house formerly owned by Ted Hughes, and is currenty an Arvon Writers' Centre.
Lumb Bank is another house formerly owned by Ted Hughes, and is currently an Arvon Writers’ Centre. Picture by Alison Morton.

Kerouac's cottage in the Orlando neighbourhood where he wrote The Dharma Bums. 4 three-month residencies a year are available to writers of 'any stripe or age, living anywhere in the world.
Kerouac’s cottage in the Orlando neighbourhood where he wrote The Dharma Bums. 4 three-month residencies a year are available to writers of ‘any stripe or age, living anywhere in the world.

Marguerite Yourcenar's villa not far from Lille and the Belgian border offers 1-2 month residencies to European writers.
Marguerite Yourcenar’s villa not far from Lille and the Belgian border offers 1-2 month residencies to European writers.

Barnhill on the Scottish island of Jura, where George Orwell wrote 1984, is still open to writers seeking solitude and lack of Wifi.
Barnhill on the Scottish island of Jura, where George Orwell wrote 1984, is still open to writers seeking solitude and lack of Wifi.

Gladstone Library in North Wales operates a bed and breakfast, as well as a Writers in Residence Programme.
Gladstone Library in North Wales operates a bed and breakfast, as well as a Writers in Residence Programme.

Finally, the Michalski Foundation in Switzerland has  been busy building different versions of treehouses by renowned Swiss architects. You can apply for a writing residency programme in one of those treehouses, very close to where I used to live (talk about bad timing for leaving the area!). Here are more details on how to apply (deadline is Sept. 30th, hence a Thursday rather than Friday Fun posting, to give you time to apply).

Cabane Mangeat-Walhen, Fondation Jan Michalski.
Cabane Mangeat-Walhen, Fondation Jan Michalski.

Friday Fun: Abandoned, Pulled Down and Restored

Let me introduce you today to homes of famous writers or artists, which no longer function as homes. In most cases, they’ve been pulled down to make way for progress, but not before bankrupting their owners.

Bowens Court, Ireland, home of Elizabeth Bowen.
Bowens Court, Ireland, home of Elizabeth Bowen, visited by Virginia Woolf. Bowen couldn’t afford the bills and sold it; it was demolished in 1961.

Haddon Hall in Beckenham, where David Bowie lived in a commune-like environment in the early 1970s, one of his most productive and creative periods. It was demolished to make way for a road and a block of flats.
Haddon Hall in Beckenham, where David Bowie lived in a commune-like environment in the early 1970s, one of his most productive and creative periods. It was demolished to make way for a road and a block of flats.

Franco-Romanian writer Anne de Noailles spent a part of each year in Evian, where she ran a salon popular with all the great French writers of the period. Although a street and a secondary school in Evian now bear her name, the villa itself no longer exists.
Franco-Romanian writer Anne de Noailles spent a part of each year in Evian, where she ran a salon popular with all the great French writers of the period. Although a street and a secondary school in Evian now bear her name, the villa itself no longer exists.

George Simenon's house near Lausanne, known (NOT affectionately) as 'the Bunker' by the locals, has just been torn down to make way for a new luxury residential development. Simenon had designed the house himself and was extremely security-conscious.
George Simenon’s house near Lausanne, known (NOT affectionately) as ‘the Bunker’ by the locals, has just been torn down to make way for a new luxury residential development. Simenon had designed the house himself and was extremely security-conscious.

The house in which Ray Bradbury lived for 50 years in LA was bought by a star architect in 2015 and torn down to make way for a new building.
The house in which Ray Bradbury lived for 50 years in LA was bought by a star architect in 2015 and torn down to make way for a new building.

This masterpiece of 1970 architecture by Mark Bernstein in Charlotte, NC, aka 'the house that fell to earth' was also torn down to make way for a more modern and bland building.
This masterpiece of 1970 architecture by Mark Bernstein in Charlotte, NC, aka ‘the house that fell to earth’ was also torn down to make way for a more modern and bland building.

Fortunately, some houses escaped this fate, even though the owner had to sell them to pay off debts. Alexandre Dumas, for instance, overreached himself when he built a magnificent chateau (known as the Chateau de Monte-Cristo) just outside Paris, including a little island with the most ambitious ‘writing shed’ in history.

Surrounded by its own little moat, the Chateau d'If writing studio was another typical Dumas extravaganza. in 1969 the house was scheduled for demolition and a large housing development was going to take its place. However, the local villages and an 'Alexandre Dumas Friends Association' managed to band together and save it.
Surrounded by its own little moat, the Chateau d’If writing studio was another typical Dumas extravaganza. in 1969 the house was scheduled for demolition and a large housing development was going to take its place. However, the local villages and an ‘Alexandre Dumas Friends Association’ managed to band together and save it.

 

Friday Fun: Maisons, Maisons, Mansions

In other words, still more inspirational houses that once belonged to writers and artists in France. Most of them have been turned into museums, although the last one has had an interesting fate.

Alexandra David Neel, who introduced Tibetan Buddhism to France, lived and practised here. From dignes-les-bains.fr
Alexandra David Neel, who introduced Tibetan Buddhism to France, lived and practised here. From dignes-les-bains.fr

Anatole France is not widely read nowadays, but was a Nobel prize winner back in the 1920s. From stcyr-hommes-et-patrimoine.fr
Anatole France is not widely read nowadays, but was a Nobel prize winner back in the 1920s. From stcyr-hommes-et-patrimoine.fr

Picasso's last house on the Cote d'Azure. From nicematin.com
Picasso’s last house on the Cote d’Azure. From nicematin.com

Renoir's home in the south of France. From cagnes-tourisme.com
Renoir’s home in the south of France. From cagnes-tourisme.com

And how can one ever forget Monet's house and garden? From cape-tourisme.fr
And how can one ever forget Monet’s house and garden? From cape-tourisme.fr

Just in case you are thinking that these are all too good to be true (certainly without a talented gardener or two), below is a sad story of aspirations and loss.

The house that Francoise Sagan won and lost. From demain-ma-maison.com
The house that Franoise Sagan won and lost. From demain-ma-maison.com

The Manoir du Breuil near Calvados in Normandy belonged to Lucien Guitry, actor and father of the slightly more famous Sascha Guitry. Whenever Françoise Sagan spent the summer at Deauville in Normandy, she would look covetously at this house perched on a hill and occasionally be able to rent it for a few weeks. Then, one night in August 1958, she won a huge sum at roulette and the very next day she purchased this property.

Unfortunately, there was no happy ending. The house required major renovation works, particularly after it was damaged by fire, but Sagan was a compulsive gambler, buyer of fancy sports cars, drinker and drug addict, so there was never enough money left over. A huge backdated tax bill was the final nail in the coffin. She was forced to sell the house, although the generous friend who bought it allowed her to continue living in part of it until her death. The house has now been completely remodelled by the current owner, the CEO of Eurotunnel.