During the Christmas break I visited the Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch for the first time. I noticed on the Time Out website that the museum was hosting a temporary, Christmas-themed exhibition so hoped it could provide a festive fix – I really went Christmas crazy in 2010 (you may have noticed!) The temporary exhibition, Christmas Past and Christmas Present, will end on Thursday 6th January with the traditional burning of the holly and the ivy and a final slurp of mulled wine. Still, that shouldn’t stop you from visiting after the twelfth day. I’ll be going back in the summer to see the landscaped gardens and smell the fragrant herbs.
The museum is housed in a row of 18th century almshouses, the facades of which are beautiful enough to justify the trip. Inside, the houses are connected by a single, stretching walkway so that you can mosey from one end of the row all the way to the other through a series of rooms. The rooms themselves are the attraction; each is styled as an English, middle-class living room from a specific era. A walk through the museum will take you through time from a 1630s hall all the way to a present day loft in a converted warehouse. The museum has decorated the rooms with a combination of genuine and replica items using period paintings and novels, and notes from housekeeping diaries as inspiration to ensure that the style is authentic. I noticed an interesting ponder on the museum’s website: “The Geffrye is a museum of typical rather than exceptional objects. People tend to throw away the ordinary things of life when they have finished with them, but keep the best or most valuable, which then often find their way into museums. Our special challenge at the Geffyre is to find the relatively ordinary things of the past, owned and used by ordinary people, and to show these in their appropriate domestic context.”
I left with a heap of interior design inspiration. I love the Chinese Lanterns hanging from the willow twigs in the 1890 Drawing Room and the deep claret damask armchair in the 1870 Drawing Room. The dome shape in the golden fire surround in the 1910 Drawing Room reminds me of shapes I saw in Leighton House in Holland Park. And the spiral staircase in the 1965 Living Room is just like the one I used to race up and down at my Auntie Sue’s house! If I hadn’t been saving for Christmas then I think I would have also left with a fair few books from the gift shop!
The museum is just up the road from The Bridge coffee shop, with all its fancy curios and delicious baklava, so if you decide to go to one then you should really go to both!
The Geffrye Museum
136 Kingsland Road, Shoreditch, E2 8EA
020 7739 9893