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2 Jun 2018

An original house

Written by Rhiannon Spencer-Jones
A view of the exterior side of the Hill House on a sunny day, looking across the gravelled driveway. Its distinctive chimneys are clear from this angle.
As we approach Mackintosh’s 150th birthday, Emma Inglis, the Trust’s Curator Glasgow & West, tells us why she loves Hill House and why she’s so excited about the Box Project.

While most people who visit Hill House will focus on the well-known highlights – the ladderback chairs, the gesso Sleeping Princess, the Glasgow roses – those elements aren’t my favourite things about Hill House.

What I love is the space Mackintosh created here. There’s real craftsmanship in the house and in his choice of materials, and it’s fascinating to see how he used the interplay of different materials to create very different spaces and rooms. Mackintosh thought about everything – the grain and colours of the wood used in each room, how light would make each space feel, and sometimes it seems even how the air itself would affect a room. It means we’re treated to a huge variety of different spaces at Hill House, from the warm and bright living room to the secretive nooks and corners of the hall and landing.

A view of the hall inside the Hill House. Cream carpets run the length, with a Mackintosh wooden chair to the left and sidetable to the right.
Mackintosh thought about everything, including how light would make each space feel.

Another thing I love about Hill House is that, while Mackintosh could of course be hugely practical, you also get a real sense of his experimentation and playfulness here. The antimacassars, which he and Margaret designed for the living room chairs, are meant to be functional, to protect the chair underneath, but they made them with incredibly fragile materials like ribbons and beads. Possibly one of his most famous designs, the ladderback chair, could be classed as another such experiment – there’s a rumour that the Blackie family never used them because they were so fragile!

But in the end, what I think is most important about Hill House is its greater significance. The Hill House stands out amongst other Arts & Craft and Art Nouveau houses in the UK because it has survived intact for so long. We have original furnishings, fixtures and fittings in situ – all of which were part of Mackintosh’s all-encompassing approach to design. Viewing these in combination gives such a rich visitor experience.

A Mackintosh-designed lamp and shade is shown lit. The lamp stands in front of a stencilled section of wallpaper, which features matching rose motifs.
Viewing the furnishings, fixtures and fittings in combination gives a rich visitor experience.

What we have in Hill House is an original. Not a replica. It was definitely designed and loved as a home, and you can still feel that today. We want visitors to appreciate that about the house. It was always meant to be a living space, but living uplifted by art.

I think that’s the biggest reason why I’m excited about the Box project and appeal. Yes, we urgently need to save the house from the damaging effects of the weather, but with the planned conservation solution will also come brilliant opportunities. There are so many more stories I wish we could tell, and rooms I want to be able to open up ... and the Box will help us do that!

An artist's impression of the enormous chainmail structure designed to fit over the Hill House.
The Hill House Box

I can’t wait to introduce more people, who’ve never really seen or enjoyed Mackintosh and his work, to the house thanks to this amazing conservation project.

I think that’s a pretty wonderful birthday present.

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