From the website of Bristol Museums:
“In 1862 there was a house at number 21, Portland Square, which was noted for its unorthodox decor.
Visitors to the house encountered uncluttered rooms, painted in pale colours; bare walls, some hung with Japanese prints; Persian rugs on the floor; and delicate Georgian furniture. This decor was in stark contrast to the prevailing fashion of the day, which had interiors painted in strong, bright colours, filled to the brim with grand, curvaceous furniture, knick-knacks, house plants and heavily patterned carpets and curtains.
Reactions to the unfamiliar decor at No.21 ranged from surprise to suspicion and even hostility. Few would have felt as Max Beerbohm, the caricaturist and writer did, that the owner of the house was “the greatest Aesthete of them all”.
This Aesthete was Edward William Godwin*, the first person in England to furnish his house in the Japanese style. Born in Bristol, at 12, Old Market Street and educated at Exley’s School in Cotham, Godwin went on to become one of the most original and innovative designers of his day.”
*parent with Ellen Terry of Edward Gordon Craig
From William Morris (1994) by Fiona MacCarthy (Chapter Six: Red House 1859-65):
“The site at Bexleyheath in the small hamlet of Upton ten miles from central London had been chosen by Morris and Webb both for its rurality and its convenience. Morris was fond of modest Kent, not unlike his native Essex but much prettier in its variegated country. Below Red House lay the valley of the Cray with the lovely Darenth valley a little further off…
Red House was by no means a revolutionary building. It was not a light and bright house but a complicated dense one, not so different in character from Pugin’s elaborately Gothic interiors of the decade before. In terms of a rethinking of volume, form and function, it was less of a departure than E. W. Godwin’s Japanese-style furniture of the later 1860s or his minimalist studios in Chelsea. When it comes to artistic aplomb Red House is tentative compared with William Burges’s full-blown extravaganzas of the 1870s at Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch. What it has is an extreme visual integrity, a flow of living-spaces, a sense of human scale and human possibilities. It is a building that inspires and enfolds.
We have to wait until well into the twentieth century to find the closest counterpart to Red House. This is Charleston, the farmhouse in Sussex lived in and compulsively decorated by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, their friends and colleagues, from 1916 right up to the 1960s.”