Thursday, 29 December 2016

2 Willow Road - Winter Clean December 2016

The house closes from beginning of November to end of February for essential maintenance and conservation work. It also allows the rooms to be minutely inspected for damage for damp, dust and infestations!

As a regular volunteer the house feels strange all curtained and cloaked, quiet and eerie, furniture carefully stored all the familiar ephemera cleared away.

Work starts immediately, when I arrived for the first clean the house smelt of paint, the stairwell had been painted, it was a dull day but it did look refreshed. The house is always kept cool as possible to protect the furnishings and paintings, we all know to wrap up warm on the cleaning days! Made a coffee and found the biscuit barrel, essential to this type of work.

This year Jen and I will tackle the main bedroom. I am usually on kitchen duty as I proved rather good at dusting empty tins, and working with kitchenware, all of which had to be returned to their exact positions, after hoovering drawers and cupboard. See post here.

The built-in wardrobe we open for visitors is to be decanted and thoroughly cleaned out. I tackled the coat hangers! They are skittish things, like to hook on to each other and lay awkwardly once cleaned with the hog’s hair brush and soft duster. Also, checked the felt linings for any potential moth casings. If coat hangers could speak all these fine specimens would have a story to tell. Some look home-made but the majority are of quality manufacture, from a time when everything was made to last!

Perhaps Mr Goldfinger had carried some of them with him from Hungary to Paris and back to England, or perhaps purchased in Paris in the 1920s. The mechanisms to close in your skirt or trousers are complex constructs, none of the skimpy lightweight things we use today. One or two had names on, we think this might be a boarding school item, perhaps passed from person to person as you went up a year to finally come to the Goldfinger's children and laid rest in Mum and Dad's wardrobe unnoticed until 2016.

Perhaps I should not get started on the shoehorns! A couple of pairs manufactured and some handmade albeit showing wear and tear, as in parts looking like a puzzle. The exciting inspection was of the boot horns in what we assumed were Ursula Goldfinger's riding boots, slim of foot.

It is very likely they are bespoke possibly made for her in her twenties. The workmanship is something you will not find today except of course at the highest end of bespoke bookmakers who still exist in small numbers. We decided to take the horns out to inspect that nothing untoward was going on inside. We managed the two halves but decided against taking out the hinged central piece that went inside the foot of the boot.

A revelation, the boot horns are hand carved with knots of wood plus a sliver or wood inserted to improve the shape and fit. On closer inspection words and numbers, the letters denoted left and right horn in Hungarian, the number probably a reference to Ursula Goldfinger’s template with bookmaker. All items softly polished inside and out and returned to their place in the wardrobe.

An old tweed suit of Erno Goldfinger was quite an emotional piece. Excellent quality material, well-worn to the extent the lining was ripped and strained. The cuffs had leather stitched trim over the frayed ends and leather elbow patches, obviously a favourite. No labels, again a bespoke item we guessed made by a family tailor in Hungary and worn to the end of Erno’s life. I was half hoping it still had the whiff of the cigar, traces of the great man in his suit, sadly not.

Several stylish raincoats belonging to Urusla Goldfinger, one herringbone right up there in the fashion stakes presently, so you see, throw nothing away, or better still buy quality rather than quantity.  All items of clothing gently inspected and then lightly hoovered to remove dust and hang back in the wardrobe to be close to one another once more.

A bundle revealed a shabby duffle coat, could this be navy issue, with a name tag? Pockets full of garden debris, a gardening coat, possible worn by Ursula? We also found a lovely tartan poncho, tartan has made a comeback as has the poncho, both a fashion staple in 2016!

All other items including the skates were wrapped in acid free tissue, a shame as not much will be on view the next time we open the wardrobe door. But we can admire Goldfinger’s attention to detail, everything has its designated place. As time goes by the house may seem to stand still in time but unfortunately the vagaries of exposure to visitors, dust, sunlight hot and cold all have an impact on this protected property so we must do everything we can to ensure all the items at 2 Willow Road remain in good condition for the future.

The Doll’s House, lampshade and under the bed!

On my next visit back in the main bedroom.

The Doll’s House is not always on show at 2 Willow Road, but when it does appear it delights everyone who sees it. A modernist’s creation for his daughter, who, it is said, was not entirely pleased with it! We feel she may have hankered after the 'Tudorbethan' versions some of us enjoyed, black and white detail, red tile roof and flowers growing over the front door! We are left with this lovely toy to take care of.  We start by using the soft brushes to get dust out of the tiny corners, being careful with the doors and their tiny hinges.  Windows are Perspex but still wiped over gently. The roof has a spiral staircase leading up to it.  We then must carefully put it all together and lift it up to the top shelf of the built-in wardrobes.

A box of Christmas decorations are also emptied out and carefully checked for any possible infestations and then carefully put back in the box, sadly never to see any sight of a festive tree ever again.

It was decided to move the bed, especially as there were two of us.  It looks handmade and very simple in design, solid but relatively easy to move out as we needed to check the carpet plus it had been used to store large pictures and posters keeping them flat in the space underneath. Mattress and bedding had to be carefully vacuumed. For the bed-cover, we used a muslin piece over the nozzle before carefully hoovering it all over.  The result was a horrid black matted clump of dust, so worthwhile, if tedious.

My favourite piece of the day was the lampshade from the uplighter. Far more complex in design than I had first realized and not sure the photographs do it justice. The results after cleaning it with damp cotton wool and cotton buds were worth the effort.  We found a maker’s mark and a patent number. I decided to find out if the company still exists, it does! We also found a spare glass shade in one of the other cupboards so comfort in knowing we have a spare!

Holophane  Pat. No. 20222 (?) Made in England

Several leather wallets dusted, and wrapped like presents ... in protective tissue.

Spare tiles floor and wall were discovered as well as lots of signage from long gone exhibitions, plus interesting photographs and posters. All to be carefully cleaned up and then wrapped up.

Old Map of Modernist properties in Hampstead

2 Willow Road opens again beginning of March 2017