While the Friends of 78 may be considering raising monies towards the refurbishing of the guest bedroom many may not be aware that even from its inception its unusual style was sought after by friends of Wenman Bassett-Lowke .
A second complete set of the bedroom suite was made for Sidney Horstmann, friend and business colleague, for his house in Bath. A third set, with some minor alterations was made for W.Franklin another local businessman. The Bassett-Lowke set is held at the Hunterian, Glasgow; the Horstmann at the V & A and the Franklin group in a private collection.
The daughter of Sidney Horstmann, Alison Dunmore, a Northampton resident, remembers that her father paid £100 for the suite in 1917 although her mother was not taken with its “modern” design. Mr Horstmann had stayed at “78” after business trips to Coventry and was persuaded by Bassett-Lowke to order the bedroom suite from Mackintosh. The furniture was reputedly made by German craftsmen interned as enemy aliens on the Isle of Man, and the original guest suite was supposedly made by the same furniture makers.
Drawings suggest that the guest room was not designed until some months after the Bassett-Lowkes moved into the house and ironically the decorations for the room were lost in the new 1919 scheme. However when the second set of furniture arrived at the Horstmann home in Bath it came with exact details about how it should be positioned and how the decoration should look. Different to Derngate but still with the ability to startle. Alison Dunmore remembers that they had to have white walls with a black band framing the walls and a stencil to print above the band that was provided by Mackintosh. Alison recalls that there was also material for the curtains and panel behind the twin beds. As in Derngate the colours were purple, green and blue which she remembers as being rather like a peacock’s tail. As a condition for the sale of the furniture Mackintosh had insisted that the rooms had to be decorated exactly to his instructions and with no other decor in the room.
Other than the twin beds the mahogany suite consisted of one bedside cupboard between the beds, wardrobe, dressing-table, wash stand, three chairs, dress mirror and a luggage stand. Like the Derngate furniture Horstmann’s was set off by small inlaid panels of mother of pearl or aluminium which as a child Alison found that it was one of her jobs to polish!
It was some years later after Alison had married her husband Maurice and after their visits back to Bath, that she realised the distinctive originality of the Mackintosh furniture after seeing an article in Vogue in the 60’s. Then, after the death of her father, Alison’s mother decided to move to a smaller home and therefore put the suite up for sale. A local auctioneer valued the furniture at £40 but knowing it was Mackintosh the V & A were eventually contacted and offered the suite. The museum were interested and although they told Alison’s family they would get a better price for the furniture if it was sold abroad, especially in the USA, the family decided it would be better to keep the suite in this country and sold it to the V & A for £200 in 1975 .