The Peacock Room was once the dining room in the London home of Frederick R. Leyland, a wealthy shipowner from Liverpool, England. It was originally designed by a gifted interior architect named Thomas Jeckyll. To display Leyland's prized collection of Chinese porcelain to best advantage, Jeckyll constructed a lattice of intricately carved shelving and hung antique gilded leather on the walls. A painting by James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) called La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine or The Princess from the Land of Porcelain occupied a place of honor above the fireplace.
Jeckyll had nearly completed his commission when he consulted Whistler who was then working on decorations for the entrance hall of Leyland's house about the color to paint the dining room shutters and doors. Concerned that the red roses on the leather hangings clashed with the colors in The Princess, Whistler volunteered to retouch the walls with traces of yellow. Leyland permitted Whistler to make that minor alteration and also to adorn the wainscoting and cornice with a "wave pattern" derived from the design on the leaded glass of the pantry door. Assuming the decoration of the room to be virtually complete, Leyland went back to his business in Liverpool.