Truly great architects don’t build houses — they build works of art you can live in. That’s the uniting principle behind these five homes, at least: a creative expressionism undiminished by the usual constraints of domestic living.
And, like great works of art, these properties are often more than the sum of their parts. There’s something magical in the way ordinary glass, steel, bricks and mortar can combine to make shapes and features of thrilling, breathtaking inspiration, in the way that oil paint might create The Hay Wain, or that normal clay could be scooped into a Gormley sculpture. Why put your money into art or property when you could get both at once?
St Ann's Court is a modernist masterpiece
This circular home was designed by fabled Australian architect Raymond McGrath (who designed the interiors of the iconic Broadcasting house, the BBC’s headquarters). You’ll see his artistic fingerprints all over this property which he once described as “a big cheese with a slice cut for the sunlight to enter the whole house.”
The house has been designed around the lo’ pan compass of feng shui, which might be why it’s so pleasing on the eye and calming to the soul. It was also home to Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera, and many of the bands biggest tracks were recorded within its walls.
But the esoteric design also harbours a clandestine intention. The bow tie-shaped master suite can be split in half by a fake partition wall — a nifty feature which allowed the house’s first owner to keep his gay relationship a secret when the local vicar would come over for tea.
Features: Games room, library, recording studio, roof terrace
The Sherman Fairchild mansion is a benchmark in progressive design
Commissioned by the endlessly inventive Sherman Fairchild, this Upper East Side property was one of the very first modernist townhouses in New York, and is still a benchmark in progressive residential design. The pièce de résistance of this home is at its very centre — a three story great room lined with travertine and illuminated by the grid of skylights above.
This tremendous, light-filled atrium is criss-crossed by a series of zig-zagging ramps — a futuristic design choice that saw it play Jonah Hill’s family home in recent Netflix hit Maniac. Stand out features include a formal dining room that has a mirrored ceiling and a master suite with floor-to-ceiling windows, not to mention a balcony overlooking 65th Street.
Location: Upper East Side, New York
Features: Formal dining room, chef’s kitchen, wine cellar, red granite façade
Pembridge Villas Pavillion is breathtaking but simple
This is the kind of challenge that any architect dreams of taking on. Situated in the densely-townhoused Notting Hill and sandwiched between two other properties, the ingenious Pavillion makes the most of all available light in a breathtaking yet utterly simplistic design.
The copper funnel-like roof hides beneath it three floors of unadulterated luxury. On the top floor, which is also the ground floor, you’ll find an open plan living, dining and cooking space that gets its natural light from the glass walls and ceiling to the east and west side. Underneath you’ll find the master and guest bedrooms, while the marble pool and jacuzzi sits, along with the reception room, one level below that.
Location: Notting Hill
Features: Home cinema, swimming pool and jacuzzi, landscaped garden and terrace
The Lost House is a hidden masterpiece
The work of David Adjaye OBE, one of the finest British architects working today, this property was a delivery yard in a previous life. But, through an incredible transformation, it has become an incredibly desirable and strikingly-designed home.
The inventive space is illuminated by large light wells that double up as tranquil courtyards and water gardens, while the interior has been fitted out with progressive fixtures and detailing. It’s also built for entertaining — there’s a stylish cinema room and a striking, black marble-clad indoor pool.
Price (for rent): £2,950 per week
Location: King’s Cross
Features: Cinema, swimming pool, two-car garage, water garden
Archway Studios deserves its plaudits
This South East London marvel won the ‘House of the Year’ prize in the London Architecture Awards back in 2013, and the plaudit is much-deserved. The ingenious, truly unexpected property sits nestled against a nineteenth century railway viaduct, where its industrial steel carves out a curvaceous, organic shape.
Step inside, however, and any sense of industry falls away in the vast white atrium, where floods of natural light bring to life the design details in the cavernous interior. Fortunately, there is top grade soundproofing throughout the property that keeps the various sounds of the neighbouring railway out.
Location: South London
Features: Award-winning design, study, sound-proofing
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