The Robert Adam Saloon

Alison Cooper, Curator Alison Cooper Curator
View of Saltram's Robert Adam Saloon with chandeliers

The highlight of any visit to Saltram House has to be a visit to the ‘Great Room’ – the Saloon. Here you can see one of the best and most complete rooms designed by architect Robert Adam, finished in 1772.

Selecting designs

Adam’s company tended to produce designs for all elements of a room. Plans would detail ceilings and doorways, mirrors, picture frames and furniture. You can imagine the owners – John and Theresa Parker – picking and choosing from these designs. They knew what they wanted and didn’t accept all of Adam’s designs, rejecting his idea for a fireplace design in favour of the one recently installed by their in-laws. At least three alternative designs for the ceiling were drawn up before they were happy.  

Detail of the Adam-designed ceiling with roundels painted by Antonio Zucchi
Detail of the Adam-designed ceiling with roundels painted by Antonio Zucchi
Detail of the Adam-designed ceiling with roundels painted by Antonio Zucchi

Buying furnishings

We know from letters in the archive and from account books that John and Theresa were always on the look-out for suitable furnishings to make a splash in their grand room. The Axminster carpet was made to Adam’s design, possibly the largest ever woven. Payments were made to the famous furniture maker Chippendale and to Joseph Perfetti for tables and seating. The wall hangings were made of blue silk from Genoa.  

Examples of furnishings in the Robert Adam saloon
Detail of the Saloon at Saltram, Devon
Examples of furnishings in the Robert Adam saloon

Picking the right paintings

Paintings were important in the Saloon too. Originally, the family acquired history paintings by the famed artist Angelica Kauffman for display in this room. These now hang in Saltram’s staircase hall. As well as commissioning new paintings, the Parkers looked to buy historic ones too. Above the fireplace you can spot an early 17th century copy of Titian’s painting The Andrians, said to have been bought by Joshua Reynolds for the family.

The Andrians after Titian sits above the fireplace designed by Thomas Carter, flanked by chairs attributed to Chippendale.
THE ANDRIANS after Titian (1488-9-1576) in a frame designed by Robert Adam and carved by Thomas Chippendale.
The Andrians after Titian sits above the fireplace designed by Thomas Carter, flanked by chairs attributed to Chippendale.

An evening’s entertainment

The gold and duck egg blue colour scheme for the Saloon is striking by day – but imagine it lit up by candlelight, and filled with the music and laughter of a ball. The archive letters describe a number of different parties, but the most entertaining entry is from 1814. It describes a ‘Mr Huntington’ whose energetic dancing caused him the ‘misfortune’ 'to make a most serious breach in his inexpressables (trousers), the crack of which was heard all over the room.'