Polished to perfection


Volunteer applying polish to fireplace poker in the Family Entrance at Osterley Park House (image: Laura Brooks)

Volunteer applying polish to fireplace tongs in the Family Entrance at Osterley Park House (image: Laura Brooks)

On a lovely sunny Saturday, before the downpours that we have endured recently, two of our conservation volunteers were hard at work in the house, cleaning metalwork.

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Putting the State Apartment to bed

Curtains let down in Tapestry Room at Osterley Park (image: Laura Brooks)

Curtains let down in Tapestry Room at Osterley Park (image: Laura Brooks)

By now, lots of properties have started their winter clean for 2014/15 and Osterley is no different.  Having got a head start in September, thanks to the Conservation in Action that we carried out during London Open House, we have now finished in the Drawing Room and the State Apartment, and the rooms are sleeping peacefully, waiting for the new season.

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Ssshh! No talking in the library!

Library in midst of winter clean.

Library at Osterley Park, during the winter clean (image: Laura Brooks)

Osterley is a house full of things to intrigue and excite, and I don’t just mean the collection.  One room that sometimes proves interesting to visitors is the Library.  There are a couple of reasons for this, one of which we’ll blog about at a later date, but the other is its colour, or rather, lack of, as some would say.  For a house that combines pink with green in one room, contains a rather beautiful shade of blue in another (if we do say so ourselves), whilst yet another is a riot of colour (and largely unfaded after more than two hundred years), you could be forgiven for thinking that every single room was just as colourful, other than the servants’ rooms, of course.  This is not the case. Continue reading

And the clean goes on…

Kate cleaning gilding by window pelmet in Drawing Room.

Kate cleaning by frieze in Drawing Room (image: Laura Brooks)

We are well into 2014 now and the winter clean is continuing, ready for when the house opens in March.  As explained in our post ‘That time of year’, the winter clean is also known as ‘Putting the house to bed.’  Charlecote Park, a National Trust property in Warwickshire, also blogged on this recently and gave a good explanation as to how and why it is done, in their post ‘Putting the house to bed’. Continue reading

It’s not all glitz and glamour …

Oh, the glamour of the winter clean!  Despite it being practically Christmas, the house team was still hard at it last week, cleaning antique dressers, drawers, moving chairs and even removing algae from the portico steps!  It’s all part of the continuous effort to conserve Osterley and its collection as well as to prevent damage occurring in the future.

Dresser drawer mid-clean in Entrance Hall, while South Lobby is also cleaned.

Clean of South Lobby taking place, with dresser drawer in Entrance Hall (image: Laura Brooks).

Volunteer dusting the inside of a drawer from the South Lobby, in the Entrance Hall.

Volunteer dusting inside of a drawer in the Entrance Hall.

Judith and brush, cleaning portico steps.

Judith cleaning algae off portico steps (image: Laura Brooks).

This is why Judith was furiously scrubbing away the algae from the portico steps, with her trusty bucket of water and brush on Thursday.  Algae could be damaging to the steps because of the potential for erosion, not to mention a possible health and safety issue, so just like everything else, they needed a good clean too!

It really does make a difference!

Bucket of water on soapy portico steps.

Bucket and the portico steps (image: Laura Brooks).

This will be it now for the blog until the New Year, so Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Cleaning lacquer

Over the weekend, a visitor to the house asked about how we clean our lacquered items as she also had a piece of chinoiserie at home.  It was explained that we vacuum them very lightly with a special brush and low-suction vacuum.  The lady then proceeded to ask how we polish the items as she used beeswax.  This provoked a gentleman standing nearby to remark that we probably didn’t do it in quite the same way.  In fact, the National Trust Manual of Housekeeping (the essential manual for National Trust properties up and down the country) doesn’t recommend any kind of polish.  Only dusting and even then only if the dust is affecting the presentation of a flat surface, like a chair or table.

This story illustrates that it can be difficult for people without knowledge of conservation skills and techniques to know how best to clean an antique piece of furniture.  If you also have a piece of lacquered furniture and are wondering what is the best way to clean it, or you would like to just find out more about the techniques we use at Osterley, read on. Continue reading