Surprise in one of the lacquer cabinets

While condition checking and cleaning one of the lacquer cabinets in Mrs Child’s Dressing

The Lacquer cabinet (with a drawer missing) in Mrs. Child's Dressing Room at Osterley Park.

The Lacquer cabinet in Mrs. Child’s Dressing Room at Osterley Park.

Room, a couple of unwelcome visitors were discovered in a bottom drawer.  A few woolly bears (no longer alive) were found amid a pile of suspicious looking fragments. The base of the lacquer drawer was also patterned with golden blooms that may have been a result of previous mould damage, or some sort of damage to the wood layer underneath the resin layers. All the other drawers and the shell of the cabinet were in great condition, so the discovery of the problematic drawer was completely unexpected and poses some interesting questions. Could the drawer have contained something which attracted the pests and caused the damage to the surface?  Could this explain where the dust fragments we found came from? Continue reading


Curious Birds in the Trappings of Trade

Curious Birds at Osterley Park, as part of Trappings of Trade exhibition.

Curious Birds info sign from Trappings of Trade exhibition at Osterley Park in 2013 (image: Laura Brooks)

If you missed last year’s Trappings of Trade exhibition at Osterley, then never fear.  We have been blogging about the exhibition, so you have a chance to get some of the highlights.  Previously, we posted on Paktong and Lacquer (another post on this to come).  The theme of today’s post is ‘Curious Birds.’ Continue reading

Cleaning in a 130ft long room

Long Gallery in November 2013

Long Gallery during open season (image: Laura Brooks)

A few weeks ago, with the Drawing Room and the State Apartment (otherwise known as the Tapestry Room, the State Bedroom and Etruscan Room) done and dusted (literally), it was time to move onto the 130ft Long Gallery. 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

‘The Trappings of Trade’ and lacquer – part one

Welcome to our first post of 2014, where continuing on from our post on Paktong, as part of last year’s ‘The Trappings of Trade’ exhibition, we now turn our attention to lacquer and the items at Osterley that fall into this category, starting with the lacquer secrétaire that normally resides in the Etruscan Room.

Continue reading

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