Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Messels at Bradley Court

Bradley Court
Bradley Court, a 16th century limestone Tudor manor house on the outskirts of the beautiful Cotswold village of Wotten-under-edge, is home to Pepe and Thomas Messel and their son Hal.  Pepe is a painter and Thomas is a furniture designer.  He describes himself as an "haute couturier" with his firm making one-off pieces as well as limited editions through his own firm Thomas Messel as well as the firm Alidad.

In the garden of Bradley Court,
Alidad and Messel, far right, converse at the fountain,
while cabinetmaker Alan Pinnock and gardener Michael Price
carry a console table designed by Thomas Messel and Alidad
for Alidad's Velvet Furniture Collection.
Thomas Messel comes from a family strong in design.  His cousin Lord Snowden (Antony Armstrong-Jones) is a noted photographer (and one-time husband of the late Princess Margaret).  His uncle Oliver Messel was the celebrated designer of stage sets and houses in Mustique.  His grandparents created Nymans in the 1920s, giving a 19th century house the appearance of a fourteenth century manor house with spectacular gardens that now belongs to the National Trust.

The Hall at Bradley Court.
The hub of the house is the Hall with its panelling dragged in colors derived from the Cotswold limestone.  Chairs include the one that appeared in a photograph by Lord Snowdon that was used for the last Christmas card sent out jointly by the Prince and Princess of Wales.  A kilim rug covers the center table and antique velvet chenille curtains hang in the archway that divides the Hall from a sitting room they call the Book Room.

The Book Room at Bradley Court.
In the Book Room, a mirror the Messels found in Italy is topped with monkeys and an angel.  Thomas designed the file cabinet disguised as a bookcase and a pair of black and gold lyre-form tray tables.

The Drawing Room at Bradley Court.
The Drawing Room, dating from 1780, is used primarily in the summer.  As Pepe sometimes paints there because of the light from the full-length curtainless windows, Thomas designed a chiffonier that houses stereo equipment and a credenza that stores her canvases.

Hal Messel in the Drawing Room at Bradley Court.
Lord Snowdon was the one who introduced Thomas and Pepe to Bradley Court in 1981, soon after they were married.

A French cherrywood table extends from the dining room to the kitchen.
The walnut and parcel gilt heraldic chairs were designed by Thomas Messel.
Not only did he suggest taking down the wall between the Kitchen and the Pantry, Lord Snowdon attacked the partition with a hammer and chisel, leaving them few options other than complete demoltion.  The resulting space combines Kitchen, Dining Room, and Family Room with a television and a minibar in two of Thomas' cabinets.

The 18th century continental bed in a Guest Room
displays a handmade quilt from Wales.

The stair in the north tower dates from the Georgian period.
The bronze table with a red velvet top was designed by
Messel and Alidad.
Pepe Messel in her attic studio.
Thomas Messel often works in the Garden House
in the summer rather than in his attic Studio.
He painted the "x" chair in the foreground.
Bugle, their Norfolk terrier, on the lawn
of the Garden House.
All photos by Simon Upton are from an article written by Tristram Holland and produced by Cynthia Frank from the April, 2005, issue of House & Garden magazine.

Thomas Messel is the editor of the book Oliver Messel: In the Theatre of Design that documents his uncle's influence on interior design, architecture, and fashion.


  1. such a fabulous blend; great modern living in a historic space. I love the modern amenities that are hidden away in the false bookfronts.

    1. While I can accept well-designed modern conveniences exposed, I must admit that I do prefer a clever concealment. Thank you, Stefan.

  2. A rather sombre looking house belies the beauty within. I quite approve of the dining table extending through from the kitchen into the pantry. I think this resolves the problem of what to do with a dining room nowadays. In my experience most people prefer to eat in the kitchen whether they're on their own or entertaining, and this solution solves the problem. It does not surprise me that it was Snowdon's idea; he is full of good ones.

    1. Although I have intentionally had my own kitchens private in the past, my next one will likely be open. Thanks for commenting.

  3. I have always admired these interiors but had not seen these. I have heard the gardens are very special and are on my must see "Bucket List",

    1. Judith, I have seen old photos and the gardens appeared to be rather bare before the Messels. It looks like they've done a wonderful job of 'softening' the rather austere house. Thank you for commenting.

  4. Very nice. Rocking out in the drawing room makes the point of contemporary livability. To me interiors are so much better if a human is in the picture.

    1. After years of intentionally photographing architecture (and interiors) without people, I came to the conclusion that interiors, especially, are usually better with human scale. Thanks, Terry.

  5. Thank you so much for posting these marvelous photographs of the Messels and their house. So elegant and comfortable and right. It all seems like a dreamland. I am happy to see Mr. Messel at his table, dressed as a gentleman should. The photo of the son could be a Hockney painting! Reggie

    1. Reggie, it is a good example of how such an interior can be hospitable, don't you think? I noted Mr. Messel's wardrobe choice as well. (You would not believe the "name" decorators I have seen in Manhattan's D&D Building in shorts and flip-flops!). Thank you for commenting.

  6. what a dream to do a post on a LIMESTONE home-castle
    {by USA standards}
    love the interiors & the peeps who live there.


    1. Renee, it is a handsome house, complimented with the addition of the Messels' landscaping. Thanks for commenting.


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