Robert Adam window seats for Kenwood House

All images courtesy of English Heritage


This window seat formed part of a suite of seat furniture, made in 1768 by William France to a design by Robert Adam, for the Library at Kenwood House. Commissioned by the Earl of Mansfield, the suite survived, although in a much altered condition, until 1922 when it was sold at auction. Two window seats were discovered in a sale. One was consolidated and left in its sale room condition; the other is the fully restored seat shown above.


Observation, investigation, and analysis of the remaining physical material have provided considerable information about the historical sequence of treatment between 1768 and 2013. There were at least 4 phases of treatment during these years.


The original eight legs were sawn off beneath the seat rail and replaced by only four rather bulbous oversized legs. During alterations and redecoration in the 19th century the pendant ornaments were cut off, leaving the remains of the oak tenons in place under the seat rail.


The remains of the original gilding shows the window seat was water gilded onto preparation layers of gesso, yellow ochre pigment in animal size and red-brown burnishing clay. The gilding was burnished to a specific scheme with the unburnished areas treated with a matting size.


The applied frieze ornament was originally oil gilded onto a thin gesso which was sealed with a coat of strong animal size. The oil gilding on the finely carved ornament contrasted with the highly burnished surface of the seat rail behind.


It was decided to fully reinstate the seat to its original 1768 intention using Adam’s drawings and all other available information to recreate the missing legs, aprons, paterae,  seat ornament, upholstery and silk damask top cover.


Undertaken by: Carvers & Gilders, Gordon Maxwell Ltd (joinery) and Roman Szokalski (upholstery) 

Commissioned by: English Heritage