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A Room with a Theme at Osborne House

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Everyone knows the impact a themed room can have in a house. When done right it can define and distinguish a space, set it apart and leave a lasting impression.This fact was not lost on Queen Victoria, who created an incredible Indian-themed banqueting hall in her seaside retreat Osborne house.

Set in a picturesque coastal location in East Cowes on the Isle of Wight, built between 1845 and 1851 by London architect Thomas Cubitt, Osborne house was the Queen’s sanctuary away from public life. The interiors are magnificent, but none more so than the Durbar room which was Victoria’s little corner of India on the Isle of Wight.

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Though fascinated by the culture, the Empress of India never actually visited the subcontinent, but instead worked on bringing it to her by employing numerous Indian servants, learning to speak and write in Urdu and finally, creating the magnificent Durbar room for receiving important guests.

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The interior of the Durbar room is exceptionally detailed. The decorations were made using wooden moulds designed and carved by master craftsman Bhai Ram Singh, which were then covered in plaster and ‘carton-pierre’, a kind of papier-maché common in the late 19th century. The decorations include a peacock, and the Hindu elephant god Ganesha. The hall design is based on that of a medieval banqueting hall with a minstrel’s gallery for a small orchestra at one end.

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The level of detail in the room is breath-taking and makes a big impression. It is a wonderful surprise in an otherwise very English royal home. The themed interior really distinguishes and elevates the space, and brings a flavour of India to the shores of the Solent.

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Connie Jackson Brown

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