Agatha Christie’s Edwardian childhood home impacted her decor decisions for the rest of her life. While the rest of the world adored Art Deco and then Mid-Century Modern aesthetics, Agatha stuck with the Victorian decor she loved, creating the lovely Greenway estate, from which we can draw home decor inspiration today.
Greenway: Agatha Christie’s Dream Home
Greenway, Agatha’s labor of love, graces the cover of Hilary Macaskill’s Agatha Christie at Home. A Georgian home, Greenway was originally a massive 757-acre river-front estate with extensive farmland. By the time it went up for sale in 1938, however, Greenway had been reduced to just the mansion itself, a large lawn, and a lovely walled garden. But it was just what Agatha wanted–and, priced at only £6,000 (about $44,620 USD today, which is about 8% of the cost of an average house in California), it was a spontaneous splurge the increasingly successful author could afford.
Agatha was always keen to renovate and redecorate her homes, and Greenway was no different. She eagerly consulted her architect friends about her alternation plans, such as expanding the bathrooms and demolishing the unwieldy back half of the house, which was a poorly-executed addition to the original structure.
When World War II began, Agatha’s plans came to a halt. After the war, she found herself restoring a 19th-century house with Victorian and Georgian antiques during the Mid-Century Modern era. The result, as her grandson Mathew Prichard later stated, was “the English country house at its best.”
In the Greenway drawing room (shown in both images above), you can see how Agatha incorporated heavy mahogany furniture into a bright Georgian room. The antique Oriental carpet recalls Victorian style, while softening the stark contrast between the white wainscot and ebony floor.
Agatha preserved the drawing room’s historic feel by furnishing with a tufted Georgian rocking chair, early-Victorian cabinet and secretary desk, and an 18th-century Chippendale shellback chair. Some of the antiques were brought from Ashfield, Agatha’s childhood home, which has since been demolished.
It was in the midst of the drawing room’s Victorian decor that Agatha would gather her family and friends and for readings. Mathew remembers that the family would lounge on antique chairs with “mauve chintzy covers”; his grandmother would serve coffee, and his grandfather would fall asleep, only to awaken while the rest of the family tried to guess the killer. “He then consistently and obstinantly plumped for the most unlikely suspect and went to sleep again,” Mathew wrote in Agatha Christie: Official Centenary Celebration (1990). Once, to Agatha’s annoyance, her husband Max Mallowan actually did guess the murderer–and for And Then There Were None, no less!
After Agatha passed away in 1976, the National Trust took over the Greenway estate. Besides the task of preserving the house, the National Trust also had to catalogue all of Agatha’s many collections, from over 5,000 flimsy paperbacks (which annoyed the Trust workers) to the antique Dresden porcelain, chinoiserie, 18th- and 19th-century silver papier-mache tables, and Tunbridge ware Agatha and Max had inherited or collected themselves.
Today, many of Agatha’s antiques are on display at Greenway, which is still cared for by the National Trust. To learn more about Agatha Christie’s beloved home and its Victorian decor, visit Greenway for yourself or read Agatha Christie at Home by Hilary Macaskill.
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by Elaine K. Phillips
Photography has been previously published in Agatha Christie at Home by Hilary Macaskill (Frances Lincoln Limited, 2009) and is used by permission.