One rainy Friday at the London Design Week last month prepared for us one of the best architectural experiences. In Surrey, near small town Esher, 20 km south-west of London, we visited the unique modernist house, which was completed in 1938 by celebrated British architect Patrick Gwynne (1913 - 2003). Now owned by National Trust, the building is one of the finest and most original examples of British modernism originated between the wars.
Patrick Gwynne is the author whose influence is very important for the next decades of the British architectural scene of the 20th century. In The Homewood, as is known this spectacular modernist house, Gwynne used the period principles influenced by Le Corbusier, as well as by English masters Wells Coates or Amyas Connell and simultaneously established some new architectural ideas, which represent starting points of his top works two decades later.
Architect designed The Homewood as his very first debut work for his parents who lived in the house very short time, because both died during the war. After that Gwynne lived in the house until his death in May 2003. At the end, his first built house was `the great love of Patrick`s life`, as said Sir Denys Lasdun who designed also one small pool outside the house.
Today, the house represents all the great work of its architect who in all life periods added there new features and designs of his own. The atmosphere and look of the house has grown for decades with the architect. For example, in the interiors we can find old antique accessories after Gwynne`s parents, original furniture from 1930s, very nice organic lamp fixtures from 1950s or the experimental furniture designs, which Gwynne designed in 1970s and 1980s. So today we can admire in the house all the faces of the architect`s creativity.
Surrounded by great land of forest and gardens, the house is the luxury estate in the modern form. The main living open room, which opens into the garden by floor to ceiling windows is suspended on the pillars. Into the garden you can step down by outdoor staircase. Here is the main outdoor living environment with barbecue and the green colored swimming pool. At the opposite side is situated the another buildings wing with architect`s office downstairs and bedrooms upstairs. Both wings are connected by glassed-in corridor with stairs leading to the decorative looking hall with the delicate antique Bristol blue and white chandelier and abstract mural by artist Peter Thompson. From this hall you can reach the main living room with built-in bar and many original designs by Gwynne or to the big kitchen and all bedrooms. In the interiors, modernist principles are combined with decorative forms, craft hand-made features and general glamorous Hollywood style atmosphere. Le Corbusier meets Los Angeles high society there.
The English functionalist architecture of the 1930s is something very specific in the context of the European modernism of the same period. The Homewood is the finest example of this diversity and the different attitude in the British residential functionalist architecture.
Thanks to National Trust for the unique visit.