Published: 06:00, 18 February 2021
| Updated: 07:42, 18 February 2021
When visitors are able to step inside Leeds Castle again, there'll be an extra glimpse of glamour from a bygone era to enjoy.
While coronavirus restrictions forced the closure of many sites to thousands of visitors, it gave teams the chance to work on projects behind the scenes.
Last year, the Leeds Castle Foundation, which owns the castle near Maidstone, began work on a long-term project to restore the 20th century interiors of the last private owner, Lady Olive Baillie, for future generations to continue to enjoy.
After a year’s worth of research, the foundation embarked on a large-scale painstaking restoration of Lady Baillie’s suite, made up of her master bedroom and dressing room.
The ‘blue bedroom’, as it is known, is now considered to be one of the rarest and finest surviving examples of a Stéphane Boudin (1888-1967) scheme from the 1930s anywhere in the world.
The renowned French designer was commissioned by Lady Baillie to remodel several important rooms at the castle during the 30s. Not only did he introduce a new colour scheme and specialist paint effect, but he also specified the furnishings such as the canopied bed.
Together they created her dream of a castle, much of it personal to her - and the bedroom being the most personal.
The Anglo-American heiress was Leeds Castle's last private owner, who left the castle and grounds in a trust to be enjoyed by the people of Kent after her death in 1974.
She bought it in the late 1920s and threw glittering parties, guest lists for which read like a who's who of the time, from the likes of Charlie Chaplin to Errol Flynn and Ian Fleming.
Largely untouched for the last 80 years, her blue bedroom had begun to show signs of light and other environmental damage.
Its 18th century-style wood panelling and parquet floors, as well as items of furniture and textiles from Lady Baillie’s collection, all required urgent attention.
A number of specialists were brought in for the major conservation project, which began last month.
Paint analysis determined the original colour of the ceiling in the bedroom and it was repainted in a warm ochre colour to match Boudin’s 1936 scheme with architectural paint specialists, Crick-Smith Ltd still working on intensive paint conservation to the walls and other areas which have suffered significant losses.
They also carried out work on an18th century still-life painting over the fireplace, which needed to be carefully released from the panelling surrounding it.
The floors were sanded back and re-varnished with a clear oil by flooring specialists AJ Rogers and Sons Ltd while work is continuing on the textiles by The Textile Conservancy and to the walls by Crick-Smith Ltd before the rooms can be put back for visitors to see them again.
Heritage sites can remain open for exercise for local visitors during lockdown, which means the castle's grounds, gardens, playgrounds are open in lockdown, along with takeaway kiosks are open to those living locally but the inside of the castle cannot reopen until restrictions have been lifted.
A castle spokesman said: "The foundation is looking forward to unveiling the magnificent Lady Baillie Bedroom and Dressing Room to visitors very soon."
Find out more at leeds-castle.com/visit