Happy December! I cannot believe this year is coming to an end! With only three weeks left until Christmas and a mere ten days until we receive the visit of family for the holidays, the pressure is on. We’ve been tying up loose end projects around the house but even with our hectic schedule I still managed to sneak in a few quiet moments with some favorite new books. As I’ve been binging on cozy English interiors lately, I came across a beautiful English home that is almost as charming as its fascinating owner, the late Deborah Cavendish, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire. I ordered her autobiography Wait for Me! and I’m in fact anxiously awaiting for its arrival. Any woman who writes a cookbook and dares to start with the words “ I haven’t cooked since the war…” has my attention. ?
Deborah Cavendish or ‘Debo’ as she was affectionately known, was the youngest of the six fabled Mitford sisters and, perhaps, everyone’s favorite. The charismatic modern aristocrat is known for having restored Chatsworth House to glory along with her husband Andrew Cavendish, the 11th Duke of Devonshire. Over the course of 50 years of stewardship, Deborah and Andrew Cavendish have transformed Chatsworth House into one of England’ s most impressive stately homes, with more than half a million visitors each year. After the passing of her husband in 2004, Debo left the grandeur of Chatsworth in the hands of her eldest son, the 12th Duke of Cavendish, and took up residence in the idyllic village of Edensor, in a handsome 18th-century stone cottage known as the Old Vicarage. ?
?“The house… has no architectural merit,” Deborah admitted, “but its atmosphere makes it a happy place – the influence, I believe of the devout men who occupied it for two hundred years.” The attractive array of fourteen rooms and eight bedrooms needed extensive renovations before Deborah could move in. On this endeavor she asked for help from her friend, the renowned interior designer David Mlinaric, whose clients have included Mick Jagger, Lord Rothschild, as well as venerable London institutions such as the Victoria & Albert museum and the National Portrait Gallery.?
Mlinaric assisted the Duchess in transforming the vicarage into a comfortable home with all the amenities of a modern residence and the charm of a stately manor. Electric points, light switches and modern water closets were conveniently placed throughout the house while much of the decoration was left up to Deborah herself, who knew exactly what she wanted her new home to look like. Debo was no stranger to decorating rooms, large or small and she used her experience at Chatsworth to outfit her rooms with chic and classic details. Her son and daughter-in-law generously allowed her to borrow her favorite pieces from Chatsworth, her home of 50 years and, along with her own (impressive) collection of art and antiques to create a cozy, familiar and cheerful home fit for a 21st century duchess.?
?Many might find it difficult to downsize from the 290-room Chatsworth, one of the grandest of England’s stately homes, into a humble stone cottage with low ceilings and a quirky floor plan, but not Deborah. In fact, she took the design principles she learned there and applied them to the Old Vicarage. “One thing I learned from Chatsworth was what a good finish a fillet (trim) gives round the cornice, the door cases, and skirting,” the Dowager Duchess told The World of Interiors magazine. Fillet edges were used in the pink drawing room, a place to receive friends and family. An inviting chintz-covered sofa, baskets overflowing with firewood, a necessity during the cold Derbyshire winters, urns and framed personal family photos were all an essential part of her new home.? Debo’s desk placed in front of a window had sweeping views of the garden. The dining room was informal while in her bedroom the bed sheets were stained with ink, a side-effect of her penchant for early morning writing in bed…?
Sadly, the world bid farewell to Debo in September 2014. She was 94 and is survived by three of her children, and an army of grand and great grand children Bellow are images of the Old Vicarage and its rooms as seen in Vogue, House and Garden UK and World of Interiors. I find them irresistable…Enjoy!