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

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