Open House: Lucy Ryder Richardson on life at Great Brownings, a 1960s housing estate of Scandinavian-style houses near Dulwich
Our ‘Open House’ series takes you into some of the homes we sell for a chat with their current owners about what life is like in the space. Here, we talk to Modern Shows® co-founder Lucy Ryder Richardson, also partner behind the Midcentury Modern® interiors fair, about her house on Great Brownings, a 1960s housing estate designed by Austin Vernon and Partners known for its verdant setting and Scandinavian design cues.
Lucy: “Every place I lived in before was different. I moved to a tiny flat by the river in Fulham to a Victorian maisonette in Queen’s Park, and then to a gorgeous 1920s flat in Willesden before heading south. They weren’t similar at all but they all had a lot of light and a feeling of spaciousness, like here.
“When my family and I first came to see this place, I remember falling in love with the woodland setting. You feel like you are floating above London in a treehouse, or even in another country.
“People always say they feel like they are on holiday when they come to our house. It could be in Scandinavia, America or even Japan. We loved the mix of English and Asiatic planting in the garden, the double-height entrance hall and the clever in-built storage all over the house.
“Inside, the original features are great. There are six Crittall windows that were left by the former owners in homage to the mid-century and the hallway still has the original balcony with industrial metal-lined glass.
“My favourite place in the house is the hall – no matter how busy your head is it all seems to get released in that double height entrance when you come through the door. I have so many memories of talking with my kids from the balcony.
“All the additions we have made have been about retaining and celebrating the integrity of the building. So, for the kitchen Adam of Landolt and Brown architects and I designed, we used wood and 1960s steel handles to maintain the original aesthetic.
“Adam had a carpenter in Brighton, John Weaver, do the doors and wooden worktop. John helped with some of the updates to the famous De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill, which was one of Adam’s first jobs.
“We saw the industrial double stainless-steel sink on a visit to my cousins in Brighton and had to buy it then and there. We marched it across Brighton together to get it back to the car. As foodies, we wanted a sociable family room that centred around cooking and I also wanted somewhere to display some of my mid-century bits and bobs so the kitchen wouldn’t look too ‘kitcheny’.
“I run Modern Shows® a series of mid-century design fairs in Dulwich, Haggerston and at The Hepworth Gallery in Yorkshire, so I’ve been lucky having a house like this to showcase pieces that suit it, like the Cherner and Eames early wooden chairs, Stag sideboards and Ladderax shelving.
“It is the perfect place to work from home with all the nature surrounding the house and the train station that’s a five-minute walk down a wide path past the woods. I can’t wait to get back home when I go to town for the day.
“A good interior should tell a story, bring in light and induce a feeling of total peace and comfort in a guest. I believe that not being precious should be a priority: it’s the kids’ house too, so when they were younger I let them paint, make indoor and outdoor camps, jump on the sofa and run around in wellies.
“Since we moved in it has been used as a location many times, which is a great way to put money back into the house.
“It’s been used as a location for shoots for so many magazines including Elle Decoration, You magazine, Observer Magazine as well as campaigns for fashion designer Margaret Howell, ceramics company Portmeirion, and a feature about Australian chef Bill Grainger for Delicious.
“The house was also featured in Mid-Century Modern: Interiors, Furniture, Design Details by Bradley Quinn. It was great to see the house amongst a selection of very good Modernist homes.
“There’s a really nice community feel here, with lots of great residents. We have a variety of neighbours from all different backgrounds, jobs and lifestyles. There is a doctor, a lawyer, an MP, a plumber, an interior designer, a photographer, a landscape gardener, magazine journalists, a music producer, an artist… all sorts. I often feel like I’m in an Armistead Maupin book.
“The house has the best aspect in Great Brownings with the kitchen looking out onto an ancient pear tree, underneath which we have hosted many of my daughter, Molly’s, birthday parties. It looks so beautiful when it blossoms.
“The thing I love about my house the most is that kids of all ages love it as well as adults. They really look around in awe when they come in.
“It makes my heart melt because this house means a lot to me. I not only started my business here, I had my son in a birthing pool in the kitchen and brought both my children up in this woodland idyll. I feel like we achieved a lot here.”