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INTERIORS were Robert Adams’ great achievement. His claim to fame as one of the greatest British architects of the later 18th century and his influence as a decorator and furniture designer were widespread, but it is the synthesis of architecture, planning and decoration that is at the heart of his achievement.

In this book the author, who has published extensively on Adam, considers in detail 19 of Adam’s most accomplished interiors, including some of the most famous country houses and London town houses. The aim was to discover what he did in each project and why and, with all the renovations, alterations and “so-called accurate restorations” of the last 25 years, how much of that work was conditioned by circumstance and how much was left to invention.

Adam’s charges ranged from £16.16s for laid-out wall elevations for the drawing room at Lansdowne House, Berkeley Square, coloured “in the Stile of the Ancients”, while clients wanting an Adam carpet had to pay for at least two and sometimes three drawings. If, having paid Adam for his designs, the client decided to employ him to oversee their execution, he then had to pay him the normal surveyor’s fee of four or five per cent of the total expenditure. What made Adam’s interiors expensive was not his charges but rather the profusion of ornament in his schemes, his introduction of inset paintings on ceilings and walls and the reliance on large, imported mirrors in gilt frames.

The great houses mentioned in this book include Syon, Harewood, Lansdowne, Kenwood, Alnwick Castle and Osterley Park. Until 1768 Adam’s work for the first Duke of Northumberland was confined to the magnificent new suite of state rooms at Syon. Once that was done he was promptly given James Paine’s job as architect at Alwnick Castle and Northumberland House in the Strand, all the duke’s little homesteads.

The chapter on Northumberland House, and the tale of the glass drawing room is a marvellous read. Beautifully illustrated with a mass of archival drawings from the Adam office at the Soane Museum, all Adam’s detail is here, his planning, decoration, ceilings, carpets, chimney pieces and furniture.

As Sir Nathaniel Curzon said on being shown some of Adam’s drawings in 1758... “am struck all of a heap with wonder and amaze”. Adam had found the perfect patron “a man resolved to spare no Expence, with £10,000 a Year, Good Temper’d & having taste himself for the Arts and little for Game’ who in addition appreciated this “man of genius”. Excellent reference.