Gun room design is mostly about function and form — with a little room for embellishments. Arabella Youens asks the experts to describe their ideal set-up.
“The great thing about displaying guns in cases is that they become the art’: cabinet- maker Halstock, which designed this room, suggests drawing on the expertise of architects, interior designers and gun-makers to achieve the perfect space.”
Gun rooms are as individual in nature as kitchens, or so believes Andrew Ambrose of Holland & Holland (020–7499 4111). ‘Just as you’d spend some time thinking about the layout and make-up of a kitchen according to the skills and needs of whoever does most of the cooking, the size, layout and functionality of the gun room needs to be designed according to the house shoot.’
Except, perhaps, for the largest shoots, guns and kit have tended to be locked away in a secure part of the basement or an outhouse. Today, however, with the rise in popularity of shooting and the improvement in cabinetry designs, gun rooms are increasingly becoming places to display your guns—and perhaps even sit and have a dram or a cigar after returning from the field. Such is the demand for more stylish and well-designed gun rooms that cabinet-maker Halstock and Holland & Holland have teamed up to provide clients with their joint expertise.
‘It’s quite unlikely that an interior designer or an architect will have the gun knowledge necessary to create a room that works seamlessly,’ explains Richard Miller of Somerset-based Halstock (01935 891762), who’s also a keen shot. ‘When you sit down and think about what a shoot might need in terms of storage, size, kit-cleaning areas and access—among other aesthetic considerations—there is a strong narrative to the design that needs to be thought about before anyone gets to work.’
He’s currently working on an estate that involves bringing together the client, his architect, interior designer and project manager with the team from Holland & Holland. ‘No stone is being left unturned. With this aggregated expertise, we can ensure that no elements are forgotten,’ explains Mr Miller. So what are the essentials to be considered?
This will depend on how many guns will be using the room—including guests. ‘There’s nothing more embarrassing than having to ask someone to leave their kit in their car,’ believes Mr Ambrose. For a large shoot, it’s not extravagant to set aside a room of 430sq ft to house all the guns, equipment storage, a drying area and a boot room.
If the guns are to be displayed, rather than stored in their cases, a decision needs to be made as to whether they should be in horizontal or vertical display cabinets and whether these should have drawers for ammunition and so on. Uplighters and downlighters can now be included, safe in the knowledge that the latest LEDs don’t warm up when switched on and won’t dry out the guns.
A central table, covered in a non-scratch material (that won’t scratch the gun, that is), such as leather, is a good idea as it can double up as a cleaning area. This could also be fitted with a drying rack so that the guns can be left to air-dry: ‘Rust is the enemy of the gun barrel,’ warns Mr Ambrose. A desk might be included to house the game book. Perhaps a drinks cabinet, too?
The obvious choice would be some trophies to hang on the walls, but, adds Mr Miller: ‘The great thing about opting for displaying the guns in cases is that they become the art.’ Another idea would be for a map of the shoot drives to be created in marquetry.
As long as the room is designed as a ‘strong room’, with five-bolt locks on the door, cabinets don’t have to be bolted to a solid wall in order to comply with Home Office regulations. Rifles and their ammunition require additional security over and above shotguns— your local constabulary firearms officer can advise.
Other questions to ask include whether the room should be connected to the house security system and be covered by CCTV. ‘Guns can be difficult to remove quickly in the event of a fire, so it makes sense to fit an efficient alarm and fire-protection system,’ advises the team from Holland & Holland.