Style Classic: Strapwork Ceiling

Just look at this fine ceiling – swirls of delicate plasterwork adorn every inch, making it the striking feature of this Victorian living room. Cool, huh? This strapwork, or to give it its formal sounding definition, ‘ornamentation imitating pierced and interlaced straps’.

Originally, twisted leather straps were used to make raised decorative patterns on a surface, creating infill panels. It appears on period furniture, carved wooden panels and most spectacularly in the fabulous 16th-century gallery in the Palace of Fontainbleau, where you’ll find seriously over-the-top stucco decorations by Italian painter Rosso Fiorentino.

Robert Adam, architect to the Georgian gentry, also played with the form, creating distinctive white strapwork often with pastel-painted infills (the recently renovated library at Kenwood House is a good example).

The Victorians fell back in love with these grand designs, thereby gifting us architectural gems to treasure today but if you’re lucky enough to inherit one, it will probably need lots of TLC to restore it to its former glory. Not to mention plenty of dusting…

Details: It’s worth bearing in mind that it can be cheaper to recreate the whole plasterwork design from scratch if you’re original ceiling is in bad shape – Hayles & Howe and Stevenson of Norwich are top-notch experts in this field.

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