Walpole called his castle a ‘plaything house’ and in choosing the gothic style for Strawberry Hill he deliberately avoided the fashionable classical idioms of his time: columns, pediments, order and symmetry.
In collaboration with a group of amateur architect friends he based his designs on the architecture of the great gothic cathedrals and abbeys. Medieval tombs, arched doorways, rose windows and carved screens were models for his fireplaces, windows, doors and ceilings. Books of prints rather than the buildings themselves were his reference point and, instead of carved stone, the rooms and ornament of Strawberry Hill are wood, plaster and papier mache.
Walpole intended a tour of Strawberry Hill to be a theatrical experience. You enter a gloomy hall and pass up a staircase of grey stony appearance before finally entering the sumptuous state apartment – a burst of crimson and gold.