Architect: John Winter
Winter House, Swains Lane
Offered for sale for the first time since it was built in 1967, this is one of London’s most architecturally significant Modernist houses. Designed by the revered architect John Winter for his own use, it is one of the few houses in Britain that stands comparison with the Modern masterpieces of California, and has been given a very rare Grade II* listing by English Heritage. The house is now in need of extensive restoration.
The property is fully detached, and has a wonderful location on the fringes of Highgate Cemetery, surrounded by trees. Internal accommodation is arranged over three floors and measures approximately 2,551 sq ft, to include 4 / 5 bedrooms, bathroom, shower room and utility room. The showpiece of the house is a sensational reception room on the top floor, which has magnificent views over Waterlow Park and the cemetery. The interior is in original condition throughout, including the original kitchen, built-in storage, quarry tiles and electric under-floor heating.
The property has secluded gardens on three sides, with a glasshouse in the form of a geodesic dome. There are also the remains of an outbuilding, believed to be the former masonry for the cemetery.
Constructed around a steel frame, the house has huge double-glazed picture windows that provide the interior with outstanding levels of natural light (the windows are now in need of replacement). It is clad in Cor-Ten, a steel alloy that weathers naturally to a beautiful dark rust colour. For more information about the architecture of the house, see the History section. It was listed in 2009, with English Heritage commenting, “This is a highly influential and unusual house in its structure, materials, plan and aesthetic. It is still a model for minimal housing, as influential today as it was when it was built.”
The house is located opposite Waterlow Park, and further open space can be found at Hampstead Heath. The shops and restaurants of Highgate Village are a short walk away, and Swains Lane itself has a supermarket, a deli and some excellent cafés. Highgate has some outstanding schools, including St Michael’s primary, Highgate School and Channing. There are direct buses to the City and the West End from the bottom of Swains Lane.
Please note that all areas, measurements and distances given in these particulars are approximate and rounded. The text, photographs and floor plans are for general guidance only. The Modern House has not tested any services, appliances or specific fittings — prospective purchasers are advised to inspect the property themselves. All fixtures, fittings and furniture not specifically itemised within these particulars are deemed removable by the vendor.
John Winter (1930-2012) studied at the Architectural Association in the 1950s, and after national service he attended Yale. In San Francisco he worked for Skidmore, Owings and Merrill as well as Charles Eames (Winter had a personal collection of Eames furniture). Eventually returning to England, he worked for Ernö Goldfinger and lectured at the Architectural Association before setting up his own practice. At the AA, his students included Jeremy Dixon, Edward Jones and Nicholas Grimshaw, and he acted as the association’s “house architect”, designing and overseeing a series of extensions and alterations to its premises.
Winter carried out a number of elegant residential projects in the 1960s and ‘70s, including three in Belsize Park, and his own first house, on a mews in Primrose Hill. Most notable is this house on Swains Lane, where he lived with his family until his death. The project was ahead of its time – its Cor-Ten steel panelling was the first domestic use of the material in Britain. The proportions of the house and the grid on which it was designed were set by reference to the dimensions of the standard Cor-Ten sheet, so that nothing was wasted.
The house is widely regarded as one of Britain’s most important Modern houses, and is one of only a small handful to be given a Grade II* listing by English Heritage.
In the 1980s, Winter was commissioned to design another house on Swains Lane, which was in the High Tech style and supported on a single central concrete pillar. This was demolished in recent years to make way for a new award-winning design by Eldridge Smerin.
Late in his career, Winter took a detailed interest in the restoration and conservation of some of Britain’s most avant-garde International Style properties, including Six Pillars in Dulwich and High Cross House in Devon.
For information on the listing of the property, click here.
John Winter (1930-2012) studied at the Architectural Association in the 1950s, and after national service attended Yale. In San Francisco he worked for Skidmore, Owings and Merrill as well as Charles Eames (Winter had a personal collection of Eames furniture). Eventually returning to England, he worked for Ernö Goldfinger and lectured at the Architectural Association before setting up his own practice. Winter carried out a number of elegant residential projects in the 1960s and ‘70s, most notably his own house overlooking Highgate Cemetery, a rectilinear structure clad in Corten steel. Late in his career he took a detailed interest in the restoration and conservation of some of Britain’s most avant-garde International Style properties, including Six Pillars in Dulwich and High Cross House in Dartington, Devon.