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Leighton House

Hidden Gem to National Treasure

In  October 2022, Leighton House  completed a major redevelopment aimed at finalising the restoration of the historic house and creating new facilities and resources to sustain it through the 21st century. Find out more about the museum's award-winning transformation: from hidden gem, to 'national treasure'.

Perrin Wing supporting the historic house to create an enhanced visitor experience, courtesy of BDP architects.

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More public space and access for all

Our Hidden Gem to National Treasure  project started in November 2019 and primarily focussed on the two unsympathetic additions made to the east end of the house in the 1920's. The transformed new wing  provided the museum with:

  • Step-free access to all public parts of the building.
  • The recovery and restoration of the original architecture lost in later additions.
  • Improved visitor facilities, including the new De Morgan Café, shop, toilets and a dedicated reception area.
  • New permanent displays on Leighton, the history of the house and the Holland Park Circle of neighbouring artists’ studio-houses.
  • New contemporary commissions including, Oneness, by Shahrzad Ghaffari and a unique suite of Turquoise Mountain furniture.
  • A new purpose-built gallery dedicated to the display of drawings and works on paper (free to access).
  • A purpose-built collection and archive store.
  • A dedicated suite of Learning spaces repurposed within the basement of the historic house.
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Enhanced home interiors and collections

Designed by architects, engineers and consultants from BDP, the project also sees the recovery and restoration of parts of Leighton’s house lost in changes made in the twentieth century. Leighton’s Winter Studio, an extension of the original house supported on cast iron columns and built at the end of the 1880s to allow him to work through the winter months, is now fully restored and integrated into the rest of the historic house interiors.

 

The Entrance Hall has been reinstated as it was in Leighton’s day, featuring a large painting from the workshop of Domenico Tintoretto, which formed part of Leighton’s original collection. A separate entrance to the house, specifically used by Leighton’s models, is also revealed. This was a common feature of the time, used to signal the professional and official role of the model whilst keeping them separate from families, something not applicable to Leighton but he adhered to anyway in order to follow social etiquette.

 

The museum's permanent collection, which encompasses  an extraordinary selection of works on paper, oil paintings, sculpture and decorative objects, has been enhanced with recent acquisitions of pieces by Leighton and some of his contemporaries, mostly from the Holland Park Circle community of artists.  Numerous restoration and conservation projects have been undertaken, with collections and spaces presented in all their splendour.

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An award-winning project

In July 2023, Leighton House was recognised as a finalist for Art Fund Museum of the Year 2023, the world's largest museum prize.  The judging panel, formed by artists, academics and museums directors, praised the sensitive approach of our Hidden Gem to National Treasure project as well as the painstaking research aimed at restoring Leighton's dispersed collections.

 

In November 2023, BDP won the Cultural Projects category at the prestigious Architects Journal Architectural Awards 2023. The judges were ‘… impressed by the skill and subtlety of the scheme, especially how it unlocked spaces and functions, enabling the house to operate more effectively as a visitor attraction while preserving its historic allure .. giving one of London’s most characterful yet hitherto neglected museums an invigorating new lease of life.’

 

The project has also been shortlisted in a vast array of architectural awards, including :

  • Institute of Structural Engineers Awards
  • Architects Journal Retrofit Awards 
  • World Interior News (WIN Awards 23 - International)
  • Civic Trust Awards  - Winner

 

Acknowledgments

Hidden Gem to National Treasure  was achieved through a partnership between Kensington and Chelsea Council, National Lottery Heritage Fund and The Friends of Leighton House.

Principal Donors

Deborah Brice

Lord John Browne of Madingley

Cockayne Grants for the Arts

The Foyle Foundation

The Headley Trust

The Kusuma Trust

The de Laszlo Foundation

The Dr Lee MacCormick Edwards Charitable Foundation

Jean and Melanie Salata

The Sanderson Foundation

John Schaeffer AO

The Tavolozza Foundation

Verdant Foundation

Sir David and Lady Verey

The Garfield Weston Foundation

The Wolfson Foundation

The Yadiran Trust

Those who wish to remain anonymous and the many other generous donors to the project.

 

Architects:  BDP

Project Managers:  Gardiner & Theobald

Principal Contractor:  Quinn London Ltd

Quantity Surveyors:  Jackson Coles

The newly developed Leighton House is among the most impressive projects of its kind, its bold vision balanced by sensitivity to the original fabric of the building and its interiors. There is little doubt that Leighton himself would feel more thoroughly at home there today than at any time in the house museum’s long history.
Susan Owens, The Burlington Magazine