In 1933, when Stephen and Virginia Courthauld leased Eltham Palace, the 15th century boyhood home of Henry VIII was in a state of total disrepair. The millionaire art patrons added a huge wing with the latest mod cons (including under-floor heating, multi-room sound systems and a centralised vacuum cleaner plus the first-ever residential shower) and turned it into one of the finest Art Deco buildings in Britain. Architects Seeley and Paget created a series of startlingly modern rooms, including a triangular – but with curved walls – entrance hall and a series of circular bedrooms and bathrooms and a fabulous dining room. Most of the palace’s spectacular interior design was done by Marchese Peter Malacrida who created a series of stunning wood-panelled rooms. Of particular note is the elegant dining room with its geometric and natural doors and gilding ceiling, and Virgina Courtauld’s gold-mosaiced bath which takes the word ‘opulent’ and goes some way beyond. The entrance hall with its stunning concrete and glass ceiling, inlaid walnut walls and carpet by Marion Dorn was created by the Swedish designer Rolf Engstromer.
In 2015 English Heritage finished a major restoration which opened up the billiards room, Virginia’s dressing room, bedrooms belonging to their nephews and an extraordinary map room, hidden under years of paint and wallpaper.
Photography: Christopher Ison/English Heritage