Never have leather bean bags excited as much comment as those that have moved into Ickworth House’s library.
Described by the National Trust as an experiment to encourage people to linger in a room, whose treasures include a Velázquez painting, the art world and some visitors have been critical.
But art historian Bendor Grosvenor blogged: “Ickworth, taking away original furniture and replacing it with beanbags isn’t re-interpretation. It’s just silliness.”
Some visitors tweeted that putting antiques in store was not the way to make the room more accessible.
The room had a suite of 18th century furniture on a rare carpet, so much of it was roped off and the trust says the average visitor lingered only 90sec. The bean bags are part of a two-year project called Ickworth Treasures, with the aim to make more of them.
Modern seating is said to give a ‘visual clue’ that visitors can sit there to admire. The bean bags are under the newly cleaned electrolier chandelier to give the best view of it.
Ben Cowell, the NT East of England regional director, said: “People are invited to walk more freely around the room, see the books and get much closer to the paintings in a way they have never been able to before. This is temporary and entirely reversible.
“This project was set up to investigate new ways to display the house and its collections, to stimulate conversation and debate and to help us learn what our visitors enjoy. We’ve had some very positive comments as well as some challenges.”