Hunt Country Décor

By Terry Quillen

 

Outside, the morning air is so crisp you can practically see it. Indoors, the style is relaxed, clubby elegance – a silver goblet of cheer shared with friends. It’s the season to ride to the hunt.

 

This isn’t about deer stands or duck blinds. It is about horses and hounds, both used in the English tradition of fox hunting. From the country houses of England to the hills and dales of Middle Tennessee, it is a beloved cold-weather past time. It is also a style of decor.

 

(Photo, right: Horse, hounds and hunt master gather outside an English country manor. From the blog Art of the Room.)

 

With our strong Tennessee heritage, what is known as “hunt country style” is well represented at GasLamp and GasLamp Too. (Photo, left, a trio of hunt prints available at GasLamp’s Booth B-210.)

 

Fox-hunting began in the UK in the 16th century, and Englishman Robert Brooke brought it to this country in 1650, according to the Masters of Foxhounds Association of America. In fact, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington had fox hounds.

 

In the 1930s, the hunt came to Middle Tennessee, and today, from November through March, the fabled Hillsboro Houndsride the region's hills and hollows. Its a social event – sometimes there is a tea, sometimes there is tailgating, hosted by members.

 

Oh, and there is the hunt.

 

“Its all about the chase,” Nashville Realtor Bill Haggard told me several years ago. He made it clear that foxes are not actually killed – something the British outlawed in 2004.

 

“Were not using guns or shooting foxes or trapping them,” Haggard said. “We ride with the dogs, chasing coyotes – and occasionally catch one.”

 

With the sport comes a look, a style. In the photo, right, is the oft-seen “snooty fox” motif, rendered incarnate as a chalkware calling card dispenser (GasLamp Too’s Booth T-714). Seen in the photo, top right, is a traditional riding hat (GasLamp’s Booth B-210); and at bottom right, there’s an ashtray fashioned from a mounted brass equestrian motif (GasLamp Too’s Booth T-304).

 

Plenty of folks are fond of hunt country style – many of whom don't know tack from treacle. For more than a few, it provides the veneer of an aristocratic way of life.

 

For those who so aspire, Ralph Lauren has established himself as a purveyor of the equestrian lifestyle, from apparel to home decor. At his home in Bedford, NY, the iconic American designer has surrounded himself with the real thing – his library is outfitted with club chairs, tartan plaid and a horse sculpture on the mantle (photo, left).

 

For a touch of the authentic, don't miss a pair of lithographs at GasLamp Too’s Booth T-360. Hand-colored by the artist, Charles Johnson Payne, each features a small sketch on the mat, a vignette from the overall work. Especially touching is a row of fox hunters saluting a passing regiment of the Crown’s troops (photos, below right).

 

The heart of American Hunt Country is in Northern Virginia, in Fauquier County, around Middleburg. Surprisingly close to Washington, it is there that First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, an avid horsewoman, leased, then bought a country estate for her young family to enjoy the equestrian life, away from the glare of the Capitol (photo, below left). For many years after her husband's assassination, she participated in the area’s equestrian social life.

 

Whether you are a Kennedy or a Lauren or just someone who loves the smell of old saddle leather and the comfort of time-worn tweed, it is easy to surround yourself with hunt country style. You need go no further than the GasLamp stores for all of the trimmings.

 

 

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