Homewood House by Patrick Gwynne

Monday, 31 May 2010

The Homewood ©NTPL Dennis Gilbert
The British National Trust is not a organization that you would usually associate with modern architecture and design, however last weekend I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon one of the two modernist properties within their extensive portfolio of buildings. Homewood House, a modernist mansion just outside Escher in Surrey was built in 1938 by British architect Patrick Gwynne at the tender age of 24.

The Homewood ©NTPL Dennis Gilbert

Originally built as a family home for his parents, Gwynne had been hugely inspired by the leading modernists of the time and in particular Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye, whose influence is clear to see. A sleek linear façade of white concrete is elevated upon elegant pillars, seemingly hovering amongst ten acres of woodland gardens; the house is a picture of serenity.

The Living Room has a maple sprung floor, the end wall is of polished black Levanto marble with veining and a fireplace cut neatly into it. ©NTPL Dennis Gilbert
The interior spaces include a rather austere study complete with starship enterprise style desk and a vast living and dining area flooded with light from a wall of floor to ceiling sash windows that look out across the spectacular grounds. 20th century design classics by Bertoia, Breuer, Mathsson, William Plunkett, Saarinen and Eames amongst others are scattered throughout the house. Every inch of space has been carefully considered and designed down to the last detail, there is an oddly shaped drawer or cupboard specially created for every object.
The Dining Room has a round table of grey-tinted glass on a base of two aluminium spinnings; the white vinyl chairs are by Eero Saarinen. ©NTPL Dennis Gilbert
With a built in bespoke Bang and Ofulsen stereo system, a concealed fold out cocktail bar and a fully equipped outdoor kitchen complete with dishwasher, there’s no doubt that the Homewood was exceptionally advanced for the times; the family had to sell an inherited fishing village in Wales to pay for it.
The Study, originally for his father but remodelled for himself in the 1960s. The desk has a drawing table, telephone and computerised diary. ©NTPL Dennis Gilbert
Patrick Gwynne lived at the Homewood his entire life, sleeping in the same humble but immaculately designed single bedroom until his death in 2003. Although Patrick had updated and improved the house over the years, it took a great deal of work to keep things in order. Having never married or had children he donated the house to the National Trust in 1992 and ten years of restorative work began.
Room view towards the window in Patrick Gwynne's Bedroom at The Homewood. The bentwood chair covered in beaver wool to simulate fur, and a round table, are both by Bruno Mathsson. ©NTPL Dennis Gilbert
After the success of the Homewood and if the Trust are keen to attract a new audience, perhaps we may see some more 20th century additions to the NT handbook in the not so distant future.
Left: The striking central spiral staircase is made of concrete with a terrazzo finish illuminated by a sunken uplighter at the base. Right: The electric light control panel in the Entrance Hall at The Homewood. The original German switches with luminous rockers are for the entrance, chandelier, stairs, front door, garden & hall. ©NTPL Dennis Gilbert

Left: The central section of the tripartite wall units in the Living Room at The Homewood with the Bang & Olufson Hi-Fi & built-in serving table/bar supported on its singular tubular metal leg. ©NTPL Dennis Gilbert. Right: The Homewood ©NTPL Dennis Gilbert

Email: thehomewood@nationaltrust.org.uk

Fans of British modernist architecture should also see:

2 Willow Road in Hampstead, London was architect Erno Goldfinger’s home and is the National Trust’s second modernist property.

Dorich House, a 1930’s property in near Richmond park was restored in 1994 by Kingston University and has been a registered museum since 2004. http://www.dorichhouse.com/

For a trip to the seaside the De La Warr pavilion in Bexhill, East Sussex was built in 1935 and restored in 2005 and is now a contemporary art gallery. http://www.delawarrpavilion.com/

Eltham Palace and Gardens was built by textile magnates Stephen and Virginia Courtauld in 1936 as their elaborate Art Deco London home. It stands next to the remains of a medieval Royal Palace, which was Henry VIII’s childhood home.

Ali Morris
Trends and Events Analyst, Interiors