Life in a Modern masterpiece residence | Life and elegance


‘It’s private expression, not faithfully reproducing an period, that offers a house character,” muses Niki fforde, ushering me inside her restored 1960s residence. The concertina door swishes open to disclose an avalanche of color. A toe-cossetting aubergine carpet clambers up the navy-walled staircase. Acid-yellow upholstery fizzles towards mustard partitions. Add a peppering of latest artwork and furnishings and the odd midcentury discover and you’ve got a house that rekindles the iconoclastic spirt of the unique with out feeling retro.

It was the unconventional structure of the home that first appealed to fforde. Designed by Edward Schoolheifer in 1964 the three-bedroom townhouse sits on the personal Manygate property in west London, a uncommon instance of British Modernist housing. “After living in a claustrophobic London flat for 13 years I’d drawn up a precise property checklist,” explains fforde, who combines a job in tv with an inside design enterprise.

“I wanted light and space with a west-facing garden and a sense of community. This place has it all,” she continues, stepping exterior to admire the terraced facade, its easy design outlined by white weatherboarding with image home windows enhancing the weightless really feel. A slate-lined backyard, which fforde designed to “echo the linear feel of the house” results in shady communal lawns. “I’m convinced that the shared space makes us more neighbourly. We’ll wave to each other as we walk past, but there’s also an unwritten code – when you draw your curtains it means ‘Don’t disturb!’”

A pine half wall built to house a TV and hi-fi.

Shelf life: a pine 1/2 wall constructed to accommodate a TV and hi-fi. Photograph: Suki Dhanda for the Observer

When the property – now a conservation space – was first constructed, its breezy, avant-garde really feel additionally appealed to actors working at close by Shepperton movie studios. Previous Manygate incumbents embody Julie Christie, Rod Steiger and Marlon Brando, who rented or purchased properties. Even now residents level out the home the place Tom Jones lived for a spell, selecting inexperienced carpets to evoke the valleys of residence and sprinkling celeb stardust on suburbia.

But Modernism is just not for everybody. “Over the years people have added partition walls or shrouded the windows with net curtains for privacy. I was lucky that my house was almost untouched,” says fforde, who discovered the property by probability. “One night an agent’s alert just popped up on my PC.”

With 3 bedrooms and a toilet upstairs, the focus of the inside is the open-plan floor flooring the place the kitchen is separated from the dwelling space by a veneered half-wall, designed to accommodate a state-of-the-art tv. The unique pine ceiling is undamaged as are the vinyl concertina doorways, put in as insulation and to soundproof the hallway, the place the phone as soon as had delight of place. The 1960s gas-fired heating system, which pumps heat air via vents, nonetheless works and is “surprisingly efficient and means you don’t need space-consuming radiators”.

The Edward Schoolheifer-designed exterior.

A design traditional: the Edward Schoolheifer exterior. Photograph: Suki Dhanda for the Observer

Time had been much less type to the ornament. “It was dirty and cluttered with cardboard-coloured carpets and Regency striped wallpaper,” says fforde. “So I corralled a few friends and we began to restore the house.” Wrenching up the carpets fforde found the beech staircase and Jarrah hardwood flooring. Further excavation revealed unique lead-based paint hues of yellows, purples and a clutch of forest-green tiles: “I’ll confess that at first I was tempted to paint everything white, but discovering these colours made me understand the house and inspired me to think differently, although I did draw the line at the dark green.”

Glass doors onto the garden.

Outside inside: glass doorways onto the backyard. Photograph: Suki Dhanda for the Observer

To this spirited backdrop fforde has added possessions which date again to her artwork pupil days at Central Saint Martins. There is a photograph of Mick Jagger taken by fforde’s tutor, the photographer Jill Furmanovsky. A current addition is the hanging aluminium sculpture by Jonathan Clarke, whose work will also be seen at Ely cathedral. Downstairs, the heirloom sideboard and sculptural lamp evoke her dad and mom’ 1960s home. “My mother is extremely stylish. She’ll hold out for the right pieces.” A teak eating desk stretches to seat 14 whereas a up to date rug and lean daybed, hugged by an arched flooring lamp, take a look at residence within the dwelling house. “I’ve used a mix of objects, some for nostalgic reasons, others because they suit the house or fitted my bank balance,” fforde explains.

Fiscal warning didn’t play into the unique housebuilder’s gross sales ploy. “Buy now – pay later,” soothed the brochure describing its typical purchaser as “Chris, in his early 30s, working for a comparatively substantial salary as an advertising executive…” Over ensuing a long time the property, predictably, fell out of style. But these days Manygate has taken on a brand new attraction, drawing professionals, younger households and design-conscious commuters lured, as soon as extra, by the pioneering spirit of Modernism in suburbia.

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