Pigments of the imagination
John and Gabrielle Sutcli e’s house in Cambridge is filled with the visual tricks of John’s trade as a specialist in decorative paints e ects
AVeronese masterpiece featuring a sultry Venus and her slumbering Adonis is perhaps not what you’d expect to find on the ceiling of a 19th- century Cambridgeshire townhouse. But the extravagant 17th- century Venetian scene that adorns the drawing room in John and Gabrielle Sutcli e’s home isn’t all that it seems. ‘Many years ago, when I was designing a new logo for the Royal Academy, the Genius of Venice exhibition was on. This was the advertising poster for it that was used in London’s Underground. It fitted my ceiling almost perfectly, so I stuck it on a piece of stretched canvas and varnished it, and it’s been there ever since,’ explains John.
As a decorative painter, John specialises in marbling, stencilling, trompe-l’oeil painting and colour mixing. He worked with paint and wallpaper company Farrow & Ball to develop its range of colours for the National Trust, and has written two books on the subject of colour: The Lost
Colours of the Cyclades and The Colours of Rome, both published by The Old School Press. ‘I created many of the names [for Farrow & Ball] that caused a lot of hilarity. ‘ Sutcli e Green’ – now discontinued – was named for me, but my favourite name, ‘Blackened’, is a shade of white!’
Having lived here for 30 years, John and his musician wife Gabrielle have turned their home into a showcase for his art and their collected treasures. ‘Everything you see is down to us, although we didn’t do much in the way of structural alteration,’ he says. Some of the pictures and works of art that fill the house are inherited, while others have been bought. ‘I can’t pass a charity shop without going in,’ admits John. ‘My best find was a tiny 19th- century Chinese silver pagoda.’
The mirror over the drawing room replace is set in an early 18thcentury carved frame that John inherited. The wheeled re grate, designed by George Bullock in 1815, was found in a junk yard in Wisbech. The woven wool carpet was bought in central Sardinia