Sir John Soane, and His Museum


Once upon a time, when I was but a young(er) expat chasing my dreams in London, I was introduced to the name John Soane. You see, I was studying interior design, and John Soane just so happens to be a famous architect, knighted for his talents in the field in 1831. No one will be hiring him today, and more’s the pity. He was a true man of genius, and not in the Bud Light commercial sense (for all you Americans out there, bit of pop culture).

Back to the architect – Sir John Soane was noted for his designs in the Neo-Classical style, which basically means he found his inspiration in the antiquity of Greece and Rome. He rose through the ranks to become a professor of architecture at the Royal Academy and an official architect for some important organization or another. He was the master mind behind the architectural design of the Bank of England, although his work no longer stands there. His main legacy though, and largest contribution in my humble opinion, is actually his private residence.

Sir John Soane’s Museum is in central London, near Lincoln’s Inn Fields. At house number 13, you can find a treasure trove of cool things behind the seemingly innocuous facade. Think of it as though you had a private tour of Benjamin Franklin’s house, and all the interesting objects and inventions you would expect to find there. Having been an architect, there is no corner of space that Soane did not consider and plan out. My favorite is the gallery of paintings, complete with moveable partitions (parts of the walls swing) to maximize display space. And given his interest in ancient Greece and Rome, you can bet there is a fabulous collection of sculptures, pottery, bronzes and other objects. It’s almost like having the entire British Museum displayed in one significantly smaller space.

As mentioned before, the museum used to be his private residence and office. And when an architect has his own space, the creativity to play, and the resources to experiment, anything is possible. Unfortunately I was too busy ogling at all the cool features and little surprises to take photos (remember – I was a design student back then, this was hugely fascinating to me!). I don’t really remember if you are even allowed to take photos inside the museum as a tourist. I do remember feeling as though we had discovered a little corner of London sort of off the beaten path, away from the hordes of tourists at the larger museums. Sir John Soane’s Museum is small – only allowing for 80 visitors at a time – although they receive upwards of 110,000 per year. It is also free admission, so no need to pay exorbitant fees for a boutique experience.

So there you have it. An entirely unique experience to be had in London. You really must stop by and see this place for yourself if you ever get the chance. And for photos, if they are forbidden, I’ve been told that operating in teams works best. One of you fakes a coughing fit, the other snaps away on the other side of the room. But you didn’t hear that from me.

{Image via Visit London}

  • That sounds so cool! I wish you did have photos, but what an interesting place! Pinning on my wish list 🙂

    • It’s such a neat place!! It’s amazing how he was able to fit so much stuff in one house, and yet it all functions and doesn’t feel crowded. It’s such a hidden gem. 🙂

  • haha i always ask if I’m allowed to take photos in places anymore because I hate getting yelled at. If I can be sneaky though I don’t always comply 🙂 This looks pretty cool, another to add to the list of free things to do.

    • Faking a coughing fit was actually suggested to me by one of my design professors in London! It is a pretty genius idea… but I always feel guilty, or get a case of stage fright lol.

      • yeah I hate confrontation, I’m definitely not the little rebel I used to be haha

        • Ditto! Although I am getting better at “texting” while actually taking a photo I think… or maybe that’s all in my mind and I’m actually super obvious! lol