The Palace of Seton

Seton Castle Design Notes

The Castle Style and Interiors
What is striking about the interior of an Adam house designed in the Castle Style, is that the interior design allows no reference to be made to the architectural language of the exterior of the building at all. The interiors are entirely in Adam's classical style and if any castle style elements are brought through to the interior or might be visible internally, such as cross shaped arrow-slit windows, these are either disguised or hidden in subsidiary room such as cupboards or toilets.

By maintaining this separation of styles Adam prevents the rusticity of the Castle.

Chimney Pieces
The majority of the chimney pieces in the house are likely to be in marble. Several have been overpainted with white paint, or had tile surrounds added, or been otherwise misused. The chimney piece designs, as with those for Dalquharran Castle, are quite simple compared to many that Adam designed for grander houses. They are none-the-less very elegant. Generally the more "public" the room the grander the chimney piece.

The plan at this level is basically divided into four areas, the entrance hall, dining room, drawing room and a bedroom with associated dressing rooms for guests. From the entrance hall, doors open into each of the other spaces and a staircase leads up to the apartments above.

The dining room occupies the central space on the North side. The North End of this room is within the half cylinder drum that dominates the design of the facade externally on this side of the house. This cylindrical form extends the room and allows additional windows to be added, oriented NW and NE and therefore picking up sunrise and sunset in summer in Scotland.

The design of the drawing room is perhaps the most interesting feature of the plan at this level. There are two entrances to this room, from the hall and from the dining room. Both take you through a curved tunnel-like arrangement of double door and lobby. The North and South ends of the Drawing Room are apsidal. There are doors to the circular spaces at the base of the circular turrets.

The House. Detail of Plan. On the South side is the entrance courtyard. A single storey corridor leads from both the East wing and West wing into the entrance hall of the main house. The corridors are curved mirroring the curved loggia on the South side of the Entrance Courtyard.

Ground Floor Plan

Curved Service Corridor. This is a view looking East of the curved corridor linking the West service wing to the entrance hall. On the left is a door opening into the North garden. The sash window on the right looks into the entrance court, and externally sits in the recessed arch of a blind arcade

Entrance Hall. This room is noted on the plan as being 20 ft square. The floor is stone flags. The door and door screen design are certainly original, the ceiling rose may be a later addition in the Adam style. The cornice is an alternating motif of ox skull with an oval geometric shape

Front Entrance Door and Fanlight. The delicacy and exuberance of the fanlight design contrasts wonderfully with the simple geometry of the glazed element of the inner front entrance door. There also a solid panelled outer door for security. The inner door is pulled into the hall to create a deeper lobby

Dining Room. This room and the library above are on the North side of the house, and get little sun. In this respect the projection of the room into the half-cylinder drum on the North side helps because ot allows windows on either side oreinted NW and NE to get morning and evening sun in the summer. The rooms also take the greatest advantage possible of the views to the North, across the Firth of Forth.

Dining Room Windows. The cornice in this room is deeper and far more ornate than in the library above. It is very unlikely that the heavy curtain rail is a feature that Adam would have approved of . It obscures the interesting detail where the heavily moulded frame, that extends around the edge of the window reveal and arch of the window head, cuts into the line of the cornice.

Dining Room Chimney Piece. Given the precept that the more public the room he more ornate the chimney piece, it it strange that the dining room chimney piec is less ornate than the drawing room next door. Presumably the focus of the room in the drawing room in use was thought to be the table, while in the drawing room, a formal reception room, it was the hearth.

Drawing Room. View of South end of room. Both ends of the room have this apse arrangement. The door on the left leads into the entrance hall, the middle door opens into the bottom of a circular turret, shown on the original plan as a WC. The corresponding room in the turret at the North end of the room is a store. Both these rooms have narrow loophole or "arrow-slit" windows

Drawing Room. This window looks West from the Drawing Room. A common detail for Scottish sash windows is for the inner reveals of the window to splay. With a Venetian window this is not possible. Here the reveals are kept perpendicular to the line of the wall, the reveal expresses the wall thickness.

Drawing Room Chimney Piece. The mantlepiece forms the cornice element of a mock "entablature" that forms the top part of the Carrara marble chimney piece. The entablature turns out at the point of support of the paired scroll brackets. The raised oval panel has a carving of a stag in a wreath of holly.

Ground Floor Bedroom. This bedroom, on the ground floor, was originally probably designed and intended for guests to stay over. Since Robert Adam dined at the house when he visited he may well have stayed in this room himself. In its current poor state of repair and without furniture it looks uninviting but would not originally have been so

Ground Floor Bedroom Chimney Piece. A simple mantle is supported on beautifully carved brackets. There is a carving in relief of a thistle within a tondo, the circular frame of which is cleverly formed from the same profile as the moulding used to frame the fireplace opening. The Fireplace has been boarded over, but the base of an elaborate cast iron grate can be seen.

First Floor Plan

The stair landing is treated as a living room in its own right and designed with its own fireplace. This room is on the South side of the house, overlooking the courtyard, and would have been a very pleasant family area getting a lot of sun.

Centrally on the North side is the library, over the dining room on the floor below. This is within the half cylinder drum on the North elevation. The projection of these rooms into the half cylinder allowed additional windows to be located facing North West and North East, allowing views of the sunrise and sunset and at little sun into these rooms on the North side of the building.

On the East and West sides at this level are the bedroom suites. From the landing, doors open into each of the other spaces and the staircase leads up to further apartments above.

Landing Sitting Room. This space is open to the stairwell and in effect is an enlarged stair landing. Keeping the space open has several advantages. This room recieves a lot of sun through the South facing Venetian window which lights the stair well at this floor level. Open like this, it would also be important to the family life within the house. It is a comfortable space, visible from all part sof the house, that everyone must pass through.

Landing Sitting Room Area. Venetian Window This window is an important feature in the composition of the South facade of the house. Unlike the Venetian windows in the East and West sides all three components of the window have arched heads. The window overlooks the courtyard, and it would be from here that a eye could be kept on who was arriving and leaving. South facing this window provide a lot of light and sun into the heart of the house.

Landing Sitting Room Area. Chimeny Piece. Being open to the stairwell this space must have be cold in winter. The open fireplace would have made it more comfortable. The chimney piece is probably marble under the coat of white paint. The blue tiles are not original. The chimney piece has an attractive frieze featuring swags with alternating foliage and rosette motif. The mouldings are heavily carved, but this is a less formal design

Cross Arrow Slit window. This window is important to the composition of the facade externally, being positioned at 1st floor level on the face of the square turret on either side of the entrance. The window is hidden from the inside of the house by being in a cupboard. Adam seemed very averse to mixing the language of the Castle Style with the classical interiors. 

The window does have sashes in the vertical section...even though they are very narrow.

Landing Sitting Room. View looking West The door on the far right opens into a cupboard (Fig 6) holding the dumb waiter. Between the parts of the tripartite arched windows there are framed panels which look as if they are part of the original window design. These may be to visually contain the individual windows and help them read as one tripartite window from the inside. The ceiling decoration does not look original.

Cupboard with Dumb Waiter.
The square turret that this cupboard is in at ground floor level is over the junction of the curved corrisdor to the kitchens and service wing to the house. This is therefore the ideal position for the dumb waiter to be located. Food or beverages being sent from the kitchen to the upper floors could be quickly delivered using this mechanism, as well as linen, laundry etc.

Library. The construction of a Venetian window in a curved wall - part of the half cylinder drum projection on the North side of the building - is complex. The reveals of these windows do not relate to the curve of the wall, but run directly North South, cutting through the curved wall as it it were flat. The side windows therefore have deeper reveals than the centre window. The window reveals also do not splay internally as is common in Scottish sash windows.

Library Windows. The depth of the window reveal is given visual interest by the shadow lines created by the coffered panelling. In both the center arched window and the windows on either side, these panels are hinged to form the window shutters. The arched part of the centre window has no shutters, and the surface of the reveal of the arch is smooth plaster.

Compared to the dining room the cornice in this room is very simple.

Library Chimney Piece. Like the chimney piece in the dining room on the floor below, the chimney piece. here is almost certainly marble below the white paint finish. In this case Adam has designed mantlepiece support brackets into the "entablature" section directly. The brackets are heavily carved, as are the edges of the mantlepiece, the decoration being of a repeating leaf pattern. The panel in the centre of the frieze contains a raised oval relief carving with crossed foliage behind.

Stairwell. This view of stair from the Living room landing shows how this room is visible from the upper floors.

The cast iron balustrades to these stairs seem quite heavy in comparison to others designed by Adam.

Stairwell. View of stairwell with its flattened barrel vault ceiling and centrally positioned roof light over. On the right the Doric screen provides a spatial division between the stair and lesser rooms and the main bedroom suite with its wide landing at the top of the house.The left hand landing which gives access to rooms on the South side of the house is much narrower .

Stairwell. The design of the balustrades consists of an upper and lower band of flattened hexagonal shapes, with a central band of large circles filled with a radial floral pattern and connected together by smaller circular elements. The design is not particualrly inspired, and has nothing like the lightness of touch of the font entrance door and screen.

Second Floor Plan

The ceiling over the stairwell is designed as a shallow vault. Positioned centrally over the stairwell is a rooflight. A landing extends around three sides of the stairwell.

On the North side the space is separated and differentiated by a classical screen consisting of two Doric columns supporting an entablaure. A downstand in the ceiling vault over this entablature forms a flattened arched opening over the screen entablature. This architectural "device" is used to provide spatial differentiation between the lesser space (the stairwell and South landing and subordinate rooms, and the North side landing and bedroom suite opening off this. Within the hierarchy set up by this spatial division, the principal room is in the centre, occupying the space over the library on the first floor and dining room on the ground floor. In a sense the progression of spaces through the house can be said to culminate in the rooms beyond the screen, even though they are in classical terms attic rooms and normally of less importance.

The stairwell is is open and this provides dramatic views down into the first floor living room.

Second Floor Stairwell. View looking East. This ceiling is a shallow vault spanning East West, into which a skylight has been cut. The circulation space is divided by a classical Screen with a pair of Doric columns. This view is taken from the West end from the landing at the top of the stairwell, looking East. The landing runs around three sides of the space provding access to all the room at this level

Stairwell Screen. View taken from the North East corner looking South West. The screen which divides the landing spatially, sets up "lesser" and "greater" spaces. The opening between the second column in this view and the wall beyond, is the entry to this more important space, the landing outside the three bedrooms on the North side. It is a very elegant arrangement.

Barrel Vault Ceiling and Classical Screen. The entablature supported by two Doric columns has counterpart in the dropped portion of the barrel vault ceiling immediately over. TYhree bedrooms open off the North Side, the open door leads into the main central bedroom which is located over the library on the floor below part of which is within the semicircular drum fn the North elevation.

Stairwell. The open stairwell provides dramatic views down to the open living room at First Floor level. This is a immensely sociable arrangement, with this space providing an informal intimate space that is visible from all the non-public parts of the house. One can imagine that this lower sitting room area would become to be the most important space in the day to day life in the house.

Centre Bedroom Window. The size (height) of the windows diminishes at each subsequent floor level. The corresponding window to this at the ground and first floor is part of a tripartite Venetian Window in the Dining Room and Library respectively. At this upper level Adam has only allowed a single window in the elevation, but has included blank recesses externally coresponding to the side windows of the floors below.


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