In the late 19th century, new ideas about craftsmanship and its relation to art and architecture began to emerge. Younger architects enthusiastically embraced the Arts & Crafts movement. The ideal was known as Gesamtkunstwerk, or “total work of art,” in which different art forms combine to create a single cohesive whole. If clients would allow them, architects not only designed the house, they designed the furniture, lighting, carpets, curtains, and anything else they could think of.
Sometimes Gesamtkunstwerk was taken to extreme lengths, as when painter Gustav Klimt had smocks made for weekend guests to wear so that their clothing harmonized with the interiors, or when architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh scolded his client for putting flowers of the wrong color in his carefully designed hallway.
Architect William McLennan was obviously given a free hand with the design of this house in Paisley, Renfrewshire, just outside Glasgow. He was a local architect who built private homes, churches, and the Bull Inn, which retains its stunning art nouveau interior. This house, available for offers over about US$915,000 with Peter Gillespie at Savills, also retains its gorgeous original interior.
McLennan designed the home in 1908 for William and Margaret Clark, of the thread family. They rather unimaginatively named the house Wilmar. (Perhaps you’ve heard of Coats & Clarks threads? Both the Coats and the Clark families helped establish Paisley as a world textile center in the 19th century. And yes, the paisley pattern is named after the town.)
The interiors are beautifully preserved, with absolutely luscious intact original features all designed by McLennan. The home is listed on Historic Environment Scotland, meaning much of it can’t be altered, including the gorgeous original stained glass. Notice how the bellflowers in the stained glass complement the designs on the copper fireplace and the copper chandelier? Well, you do now. So much Gesamtkunstwerk!
The interiors freely combine Arts & Crafts with the ebonized wood popularized by McLennan’s contemporary Mackintosh, while adding bold uprights reminiscent of another vaunted English architect, C.F.A. Voysey.
The 2,787-square-foot house boasts five bedrooms, two bathrooms, and various reception rooms. All of the major rooms and the bedrooms include original fireplaces, and the butler’s pantry includes the original cabinetry and sink. The dining room also features built-in original china cabinets, while some stained glass windows, on the front and side gardens, reference the Clark family. Outside in the pretty, mature gardens, there’s a lawn surrounded by mature evergreen trees and underplanted with colorful flowers.
The reason the house is in such good condition is that it was lived in by Moira Clark, the couple’s daughter, all her life. She died well into her 90s and saw no reason to update anything, basically ever. The family who owns the house now are only the second owners. They purchased the property in 2004 and then moved out to perform needed updates, such as a new roof, wiring and plumbing, as well as adding central heating. In 2014, they added a conservatory on the back for a family room, which overlooks the pretty gardens.
Somewhere, we’re sure, William McLennan is smiling in a dour Scottish Victorian kind of way.