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JAMES FINLAY


How I can help

Research and advice on a decorative schemes

Every project has different requirements depending on size and scope. It might involve researching and producing appropriate schemes for a complete house - combining redecoration, conservation, sourcing furniture and commissioning new upholstery. Or perhaps advising on the redecoration of just one room in order to create a balance with an existing collection of furnishings and pictures. 

Whatever the project’s scale and intricacy, I aim to devise decorative schemes that are sensitive to the place, respect the values of evidence, craft and conservation, and have a harmonious colour palette. 

I usually suggest an initial visit in order to discuss the brief, assess the work and the research required. This enables me to write a follow-up proposal with an outline of further visits, advice and costs.  

Interpretation of archives, and historic room usage

If you’re interested in learning more about a building’s architectural history and development, and the way in which rooms have been used by previous generations, I will carry out detailed research into archival sources, work out what clues remain in the fabric of the building and assess the floor plans. 

As well as being a good starting point for restoring historically authentic schemes, these investigations can also help inspire aesthetic decisions when there’s less need to be burdened by precedence. 

 Knowing more about a building open to the public is invaluable for its interpretation, and it makes a private home a more fascinating place to live in.  

Material analyses

I can organise surveys of materials to help determine the age of a building, room or alteration using dendrochronology, plaster and stone analysis, and paint analysis. 

Paint analysis is an invaluable way of revealing the succession of colours and media used in previous decorations, and will guide decisions for a restoration project. Often particular pigments and paint types can help with the dating of schemes, and it’s always very satisfying if this is backed up by corroborative archival evidence.

Care and conservation of collections and furnishings 

It is important to consider all elements in a room with an even hand. 

When reviewing the building fabric and surface decorations, I can assess the repair, cleaning and conservation of the wider furnishings, eg paintings, gilded frames, furniture, textiles - or even a humble catch on a window.

Specification of new decorations and commissioning new furnishings

Once a scheme has been agreed I will provide a written outline of the approach and details of the separate elements that make up the project.  

 I can also supply specifications for a quotation or tendering process - for example, to repair a chimneypiece, commission a new carpet, or redecorate a room. 

 If I have the responsibility for managing a project I will plan and oversee the timetable.

Assembling a team of conservators, suppliers, trades and other specialists

I have many contacts amongst the specialist trades and suppliers associated with a building’s decoration and care.

So whether a job needs a thousand metres of leather trim for a library’s shelving, a hundred pictures which require conservation, ten rooms to rehang with wallpapers, or the commissioning of one stair runner - I am able to help.

Research and advice on the external appearance of a building

It is important to consider the whole building. Taking care of first impressions before the threshold is crossed reinforces the time and effort employed indoors. Is it a proud herald, or an understated oyster containing a pearl? I enjoy helping to devise a complementary logic for the external appearance, eg new render, brick pointing, paint colours for windows and doors, hard surfaces to paths and drives, electric lighting, and planting schemes.

Collating proposals for Listed Building Consent

Almost all of my commissions involve Listed buildings so I am used to working alongside Conservation and Planning Officers. I will also help towards an application for Consent including writing statements justifying decorative alterations.


Recently I’ve had projects at the following properties

  • Armoury House, HAC, London
  • Attingham Hall, Shropshire (NT)
  • Belton, Lincolnshire (NT)
  • Castle Coole, Co Fermanagh (NT)
  • Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire (NT)
  • Knole, Kent (NT)
  • Morden Hall Park (NT)
  • Mount Stewart, Co Down (NT) 
  • Seaton Delaval, Northumberland (NT)
  • Trinity College Chapel, Oxford