A Guide to Interior Spaces through Frederic Leighton’s Lens



Narcissus Hall view from The Arab Hall, Leighton House @RBKC. 

Step into the opulent world of Frederic Leighton, a luminary of the Victorian era whose artistic brilliance extended beyond canvases to the spaces he inhabited. In this exploration, we delve into Leighton’s mind and decorative schemes, uncovering the richness of experience and cultural sophistication that set him apart from his contemporaries. 

But what relevance does Frederic Leighton hold for us today? How can we draw inspiration from his aesthetic to enrich our environments? Join us on a virtual tour of Leighton’s residence, where every object is meticulously placed, and every corner tells a story. Discover the secrets that can transform your space without breaking the bank as we unravel the art of elevating your surroundings through thoughtful object placements. 


Peacock Details, Leighton House.


  1. Infuse Nature’s Elegance 

Channel Frederic Leighton’s penchant for bringing the outdoors in, consider incorporating elements of nature to elevate your living space.                                                                                                                                                                 

 -Peacock Feather Accents: Leighton famously utilized peacock feathers to symbolise opulence and beauty. Embrace the exotic allure of peacock feathers by integrating them into your decor. Consider using them as artwork, in the form of printed tiles, or as striking motifs in embroidery for an elegant touch. 


Frederic Leighton, Clytie, 1896. 


  1. Frames as Architectural Extensions 

Explore the idea of treating frames not merely as enclosures for artworks but as architectural extensions that contribute to the overall aesthetic of your space. 

– Ornate Frames: Choose frames that are more than functional-they should be an integral part of the artwork, extending its visual impact.

– Gallery Wall as a Statement: Allow the frames to interact with each other.


Leighton’s studio and view into Winter Studio, Leighton House @RBKC.


  1. Rugs Beyond the Floors: Textiles as Art

– Wall Hangings: Follow in the footsteps of Leighton by liberating rugs from conventional roles and transforming them into art that drapes and adorns various surfaces throughout your home. 


                                                                                                     Winter Studio, Leighton House.


  1. Harness Natural Light 

Consider maximising available daylight not only for aesthetic reasons but as a practical solution for creating an efficient and organized working environment.

– Strategic Placement: Arrange furniture and decor to maximise exposure to natural light and position key elements, such as reading or workspaces, near windows to benefit from daylight.

– Leighton’s Winter Studio Concept: Embrace the idea of a dedicated working space that serves both creative and storage needs.


  1. Enhance Ambiance with Water Sounds

At the end of the Silk Room, the Zenana, believed to have been acquired in Cairo, provides glimpses into the Arab Hall and allows the sound of the fountain to trickle into the upper floor of the house. Inspired by Leighton’s masterful integration of sensory experiences, consider incorporating water features to add a harmonious soundtrack to your living spaces.


  1. Material Fusion 

Leighton had a penchant for blending diverse materials in his decor. Including the eclectic fusion of marble, bronze, wood and tiles. 

– Diverse Textures: Integrate marble, bronze, wood and tile elements throughout your home to create a rich tapestry of textures.

– Statement Pieces: Use materials like marble and bronze for statements. Whether it’s a bronze sculpture or a marble tabletop, these elements can serve as focal points that capture attention. 


  1. Add Black and Gold Accents

In the early 1880s, the soffit of the staircase was decorated in a stencilled gold scheme and painted black in about 1885.

– Gold Stencilled Details: Add a touch of opulence to architectural features or accent walls with gold stencilled patterns. Whether it’s a border along the ceiling or intricate designs on the walls, these gilded details evoke a sense of luxury. 

– Black colour: Integrate black elements into your decor to create a sense of drama. Consider black furniture, wall panelling, or even a statement staircase reminiscent of Leighton’s bold choice to paint his staircase black.

– Accessories: Incorporate gold-framed mirrors, black and gold throw pillows, or artwork that features this elegant colour pairing.


Silk Room, Leighton House @RBKC. 


  1. Ditch the White Wall 

– Bold Wall Colours: Choose warm and saturated hues to replace white walls. Consider deep greens, rich blues or other jewel tones, mirroring the leaf green silk that adorned Leighton’s Silk Room.

– Textured Wall Coverings: Explore textured wall coverings like silk. 


  1. Local Spirit 

Leighton’s House, was at the centre of a community of artist’s studio houses around Holland Park in the late nineteenth century. Inspired by the community-centre spirit, look to your immediate environment, local businesses and community offerings to draw inspiration and foster a sense of connection within your living spaces.

– Local Art and Craft: Support local artists and artisans by incorporating their works into your decor. 


  1. Cultivate Cultural Depth 

In the spirit of Leighton’s culturally rich environment, draw inspiration from the worlds of music and literature to add layers of creativity and intellectual depth to your designs. For example, Leighton’s ‘Cimabue’s Celebrated Madonna is Carried in Procession through the streets of Florence’ painting took inspiration from a Renaissance art historian’s book called Vasari’s Lives of the Artists. 

– Literary Displays: Create displays of books that have inspired you. By surrounding yourself with the intellectual and artistic influences that resonate with you, your home becomes a reflection of your passions and a constant source of inspiration. 


  1. Wanderlust Reflection: Travel Inspirations

Travel remained a constant theme of Leighton’s life, with weeks and sometimes months spent overseas each year. By the early 1860s, he had already travelled widely through continental Europe and into North Africa, motivated by a desire to see and study architecture. A key influence on Leighton as he planned his home was the architecture and interiors of Venice. His staircase hall resembles the picturesque courtyard of the fifteenth-century Palazzo Centani. Following Leighton’s wanderlust, turn your travels into a design narrative for your home. Draw inspiration from the diverse cultures and architectural wonders you’ve encountered to create a space that echoes the richness of your adventures.

– Global Souvenirs: Showcase souvenirs as decorative elements.


  1. Balance Aesthetics and Functionality

The New Entrance Hall was plainly decorated to reflect its functional nature and heighten the sense of anticipation. The Arab Hall was not built for a practical purpose but as an atmospheric and memorable setting for his tiles. Leighton and his architect, George Aitchison, thought about how objects and artworks sat within the interiors. Incorporate purposeful design into your home by distinguishing between spaces that serve functional needs and those intended to evoke a specific atmosphere or aesthetic. 

– Careful Object Placement: Consider how objects and artworks sit within each interior and pay attention to their placement, ensuring that they contribute to the overall atmosphere and functionality of the space. 


The Arab Hall, Leighton House @RBKC.


In the spirit of Frederic Leighton’s design philosophy, our homes become more than spaces; they evolve into canvases of cultural richness and intentional design. Inspired by Leighton’s eclectic fusion of materials, artist collaborations and travel experiences, we uncovered design possibilities that transcend conventional norms. Leighton’s legacy encourages us to embrace black and gold touches, incorporate sound mechanisms and depart from traditional white walls. Beyond aesthetics, our homes tell stories through books, music and art. We hope this article can elevate your home into a timeless reflection of your style and cultural appreciation. 


Gratitude to Ana Garcia for the Media Press Pass to Frederic Leighton’s House and access rights to Press Images. Article Published February 2024.