Inside an artist’s hideaway in south London | Life and elegance


As an artist who paints road life and cityscapes, it is smart that Trevor Burgess lives in a really city location. His dwelling, in south London, is an previous builder’s yard, sandwiched between a busy railway line and the backs of Victorian terraces. Except that it’s additionally a little bit of a country hideaway, too. A sliver of track-side meadow lies reverse and the unmade path that results in his entrance door is dotted with wild flowers and waist-high grasses. “Nobody can find this place – even our post often goes to a house in the next street,” says Burgess.

plywood ceilings and yellow rubber flooring in the kitchen

The plywood ceiling and yellow rubber flooring within the kitchen. Photograph: James Balston for the Observer

The constructing was derelict when Burgess and his spouse, panorama architect Andrea Dates, purchased it. “It was in a terrible state – stacked with rotten timbers and piles of old pipes,” he says. Cement had been poured over what has been made into their again backyard. They had the cement damaged up and eliminated, chunk by big chunk, after which they sifted by way of years of detritus beneath. Some of the prettier spoils – cloudy glass bottles, sections of slate and the odd rusted cog – at the moment are displayed round their dwelling.

Larger-scale reminders of the constructing’s earlier life stay, too, from municipal door handles to home windows with security glass crisscrossed with wire. The brick wall above the cooker is produced from pitted and crumbled London bricks, whereas different sections of the constructing are shored up with extra prosaic breeze block, patched up with no matter was at hand on the time. The couple’s rest room was as soon as the builder’s workplace, with a small hatch the place workmen collected their wages. “We filled in the opening and it’s now a useful set of shelves,” says Burgess.

Other jobs included fixing sheets of ply to the pitched ceiling and including some inner home windows, utilizing corrugated polycarbonate. “It’s lightweight, insulates well and is easy to cut,” explains Burgess, who additionally made all of the picket cabinets and the kitchen models, incorporating a pair of ornamental 1940s drawers into his kitchen construct.

But the entire couple’s alterations had been born of necessity, relatively than in pursuit of any “reclaimed” aesthetic. “Originality was forced upon us because of our limited budget,” says Burgess. “But it was never our intention to turn this space into a pristine white cube.” Colour is a giant a part of the couple’s model, with vibrant paint shades impressed by travels to India and Latin America – Andrea is Argentinian in order that they ceaselessly go to her household there and have travelled across the area.

Wild and cultivated flowers outside

Wild and cultivated flowers outdoors. Photograph: James Balston for the Observer

Urban life is a mainstay of Burgess’s artwork work, from nameless London flats painted from property brokers’ listings to youngsters taking part in within the fountains of Granary Square in King’s Cross. Then there are work of markets, depicting fruit and veg sellers in Dalston and a stall piled excessive with flip-flops, in Pune, India. “Markets are part of why cities exist,” he says. “It’s how they developed as trading centres and, in most cities, markets are still a hub of city life.”

The vibrant yellow of the rubber flooring was impressed by a visit to Mexico City: “It was dusty grey concrete before, so we were thrilled with the effect,” he says. More color comes from a pair of previous chairs that Andrea re-covered in pink velvet. She additionally painted delicate gilt trims on a headboard within the bed room. “The 1930s bed was passed on by my nana, along with its original mattress filled with straw. Andrea sanded it back and picked out the carving in gold paint – and, yes, we updated the mattress.”

The bedroom, with its almost luminous turquoise walls and 30s bed.

The bed room, with its nearly luminous turquoise partitions and 30s mattress. Photograph: James Balston for the Observer

The bed room’s brick partitions are painted in a luminous shade of turquoise, which took a few goes to get proper. “It’s a room that doesn’t get much natural light so it needed to be a strong colour,” says Burgess. At the foot of their mattress, he created an inner window, utilizing corrugated polycarbonate. The reverse aspect of the window is stacked with rows of previous glassware, so gentle nonetheless flows in. When trains rumble by, the glasses shiver and tinkle, a reminder of the city setting.

Burgess’s personal colour-saturated work cling throughout this single-storey dwelling, alongside previous household photographs and 2 works by artist John Kiki, who impressed and helped Burgess when he was beginning out. “I was a trainee at a Norwich gallery and one of my first jobs was to pick up John’s paintings from his studio, hidden away above a meat-packing warehouse. I was just stunned by his work,” he remembers.

Trevor Burgess

Trevor Burgess: ‘Originality was forced upon us because of our limited budget. But it was never our intention to turn this space into a pristine white cube.’ Photograph: James Balston for the Observer

Burgess quickly went on to assist arrange a co-operative studio in Norwich, the place he and different artists renovated a disused warehouse – expertise that had been helpful when he and Andrea transformed this London area a few years later. “Whether it’s to make a studio or a home, most artists need to be adept at reusing spaces in creative ways,” he says.

Trevor Burgess’s work may be seen at In The City, East Gallery ( till 1 September; he sells his work by way of Cavaliero Finn (

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