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Edward Bulmer | The Colourful Past


[ Talk )

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Join Edward Bulmer, architectural historian, interior designer and and founder of Edward Bulmer Natural Paint, to discuss his new book, The Colourful Past, exploring the vibrant history of British country houses.

‘The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there’ – the opening lines of LP Hartley’s great novel The Go Between. Though set in a country house before the first world war, it becomes apparent that his words were about the social mores of the day as much as the changes wrought to society by the passage of time.

The country house remains a highly distinctive part of British life and while the stiffness of aristocratic life has not sustained, these places have found new owners and continued relevance. Not only have they given Edward a career, but their ‘foreign country’ has taught him much.

Edward’s book, The Colourful Past is a celebration of the country house and a snapshot of the craftsmanship and artistry still brought into play to decorate, restore, display and remodel them. Their past is revealed to be full of colourful and careful detail that can inspire and inform modern work.

Colour was often key to decorative schemes but in former times we developed a deep understanding of how to achieve longevity by working with appropriate materials and maintaining them consistently. This was often the story of paint and from its early use 30,000 years ago we used it to protect as well as adorn. These are lessons as relevant today as they have ever been and Edward explores what we can learn and how we should view our Colourful Past.

There will be a book signing after the talk until 7:30pm, giving you the chance to meet Edward and purchase a copy of his book.


Book your tickets

Tickets cost £15 and include a glass of wine or a soft drink.

Our galleries, including the Kaye Donachie: Song for the Last Act and Gwen John: Life and Art in London and Paris exhibitions will be open until 8pm. If you would also like to visit the exhibitions, you can book your a half-price ticket here. (Entry to the galleries is not included in event ticket).

Official Paint Partner

Edward Bulmer Paints logo
Photograph of a man stood with right hand on a white cabinet. He wears a green brown tweed waistcoat and trousers with a white shirt. In front of him is a round wooden table strewn with paper.

Speaker bio - Edward Bulmer

Edward Bulmer is one of Britain’s leading architectural historians, specialising in restoring and decorating historic buildings.  He has become deeply involved with ecological issues and is a stylish exponent of practical sustainability in everyday living and the founder of his eponymous paint brand Edward Bulmer Natural Paint.

What started over thirty years ago as an assistant’s job in David Mlinaric’s office and then in Alec Cobbe’s studio has led to architectural and decorative commissions in the UK and Ireland as well as major works at Althorp, Home House, Goodwood and many other great houses, including Chequers and Chevening. In 2003, work on Goodwood House demanded he use only non-toxic and sustainable materials and Edward began analysing so-called ‘eco-friendly’ paint products.  This led him to launch his own paint collection, Edward Bulmer Natural Paint, which is now available in over 100 colours. His paint range is not only a collection of carefully designed colours, but it is an environmental campaign to clean up the paint industry one tin at a time. Working with gentle chemistry and plant-based ingredients Edward Bulmer Natural Paint offers a sustainable alternative to modern paint which is now mostly made with petrochemical derived ingredients.

Moving from traditional to natural materials is often not a move at all and Edward believes that many established practices in historic houses have much to teach us today. The pigment range that he would prepare in the picture restoration studio has remarkable similarities with what he uses now, though he eschews the use of heavy metals owing to their toxicity. His work remains centred on his central passion, which is to render our great period houses, to be practical, beautiful and comfortable. All decisions in Edward’s design practice and paint business are made with the planet in mind. He is passionate about making living spaces healthier for us and protecting both buildings and the environment.

Edward has shared all his experience and knowledge in his first book ‘The Colourful Past: Edward Bulmer and the English Country House’ where he takes readers on an in-depth and indulgent tour of his work in some of Britain’s finest homes including Goodwood, Pitshill House and Broughton Hall, along with his own stunning Queen Anne manor house, Court of Noke. Colour is king!

Edward Bulmer Natural Paint – New flagship store open 194, Ebury St, London SW1W 8UP