Christ Church Cathedral School: Farrow & Ball Transformation
"Having the same colour creates a dull, flat space."
When Farrow & Ball undertook a refurbishment sponsorship project with Christ Church Cathedral School this summer, their inspiration was the School crest above the front door.
The red of Cardinal Wolsey’s hat, the black of the Cornish Choughs, and the blue of the de la Pole leopards soon became the Rectory Red, Railings, and Stiffkey Blue from the Farrow & Ball palate and are now reflected throughout the School’s main building.
“The crest above the front door was key,” said Jane Breaks, Manager of the Oxford Farrow & Ball showroom. “We listened to the fact that the boys wanted blue and then put that together with the colours in the crest. We also had to look outside and ask what worked with the stone and the light. Then we came up with a group of traditional neutrals.” Jane also kept in mind the navy uniform with the red stripe in the tie. “When the boys go into the Dining Room, the colours match so well that they almost look as if they are walking onto a stage set,” she said.
Christ Church Cathedral School was founded in 1546 by Henry VIII who made provision for a number of boy Choristers and a Schoolmaster for his Cathedral. From this royal beginning has grown the present school, which has been housed at 3 Brewer Street since 1892, when Dean Liddell, father of the Alice immortalised by Lewis Carroll, arranged for it to be built for the then Headmaster, the Rev Henry Sayers, father of the crime writer Dorothy Sayers. The School now has a total of 160 children, 20 of whom are Cathedral Choristers. Such is the demanding schedule of the Choristers’ rehearsals and services, that they are required to board. Refurbishing the Boarding House was a top priority. “Our aim was to create an atmosphere in which parents were happy to leave their boys and boys were happy to stay,” said Jane. “By doing this we felt we were helping to ensure the highest calibre of Chorister applicants and preserving the next generation of Choristers at what is a great English institution.”
In the dormitories, Jane chose neutral colours. “We wanted to create a calm environment for the Choristers, who have a hectic pace of life,” she said. Details such as the finials and steel girders, which were previously overlooked, were accented in Rectory Red and Stiffkey Blue to add dimension, and the boarded up fireplaces were reinstated and painted in Railings, along with the radiators. The curtains were replaced with blackout blinds, to allow light to flood the dormitories in daylight and complete darkness to aid deep sleep at night. The skirting was painted the same colour as the walls below the dado rail. “There is lots of stuff in these rooms so you don’t need a lighter skirting,” explained Jane. “Painting the skirting and the walls the same colour also has the effect of making a room feel bigger.” Likewise, the apex ceilings were painted the same colour as the walls to create a sense of space.
Prior to Farrow & Ball’s refurbishment, much of the School was painted cream. “There was no contrast,” said Jane. “Having the same colour creates a dull, flat space.” In the lobby, she chose a relatively dark neutral called Shaded White. She explained why: “To make a dark space interesting you probably don’t paint it bright white because, contrary to what you might think, it’s better to embrace the fact that it’s dark. Also, it’s a transitory space. As you go up the stairs to the Boarding House it gets lighter. Also, the lobby has lots of interesting features – the fireplace, a tuba, the stained glass. If it was too light your eye would go around these features and miss them.”
The Common Room is now painted Yeabridge Green. “We wanted to bring the outside in so we chose this bright, young, vibrant, happy green,” said Jane. “Also, the Headmaster loves green. He needs to be happy!” The Sick Bay is Parma Gray. “This is the colour of the sky,” said Jane. “When a boy is lying in bed not feeling good, it will be very calming.” Here she included in her design one of Farrow & Ball’s new wallpapers, launched in September. It’s called Gable and portrays a charming rural scene. The Front Office was done up in another new wallpaper – Enigma, a geometric design named after the encoding machine. “The pattern in the Enigma wallpaper is reflected in the stained glass edging in the windows,” said Jane “By painting the arches Stiffkey Blue to match the wallpaper, we pulled the room together. We used the same neutrals as in the lobby but a shade lighter.”
Jane needn’t have worried about keeping the Headmaster happy. Richard Murray, Headmaster of Christ Church Cathedral School, is delighted with the results, including his study. “Every time I enter the School, I feel a genuine sense of delight at how the historic building’s charming architecture has been enhanced by Farrow & Ball’s stunning colour scheme,” said Mr Murray. “The carefully chosen neutrals beautifully pick up the Cotswold stone which surrounds the School on every side.”
If you are interested in learning more about the secrets of transforming spaces through the use of paint and paper, Farrow & Ball is holding a Colour Consultation evening in the newly refurbished Dining Room at Christ Church Cathedral School, 3 Brewer Street, Oxford OX1 1QW on Tuesday 10th January 2017, 6.30pm-8.30pm. You will learn how to maximise light and contrast, and introduce colour effectively, as well as have the opportunity to ask Farrow & Ball experts any questions you may have on any current decorating project. To book, please call the Oxford showroom on 01865 559575 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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