My Modern House: Jessica Robinson opens the door to David Adjaye's Lost House in King's Cross


Jessica Robinson: “My husband, Brian, moved here in 2008. He had seen that the house was for sale with The Modern House and he was just enamoured by it. After all his years living here, he still has the same feeling of discovery every time he walks through the door. It’s a very special place.

“Brian and I got married two years ago, which is when I moved over from New York. We had been long distance for many years but there was no way I could tempt him to leave.

“The main part of the house is actually built in what was originally an alleyway. There’s only one external window so the main space is lit by the three light wells that run through the central living area. It is designed in such a way that the light is endlessly reflected through mirrors and reflective surfaces that are set within the walls. I really don’t think of it as a dark space, it’s very uplifting. The bedrooms occupy a more private space and are tucked beneath the adjacent building.

“We haven’t wanted to compromise the design at all – our intention is to really preserve it. We maintain a relationship with David and occasionally he will pop by with friends or colleagues who want to see the space. This was a favourite project of his and we are happy to share it.

“David doesn’t have a signature style but you can trace his hand in the design. The use of inexpensive materials and the exposed wood and concrete is very typical of his aesthetic. The combinations in his palettes create brilliant textures and contrasts. There are great juxtapositions in the rough chipboard and the resin floor, the raw concrete counter tops and the smooth leather upholstery.

“The architecture has definitely changed the way that I live. I grew up in a house laden with pictures and wall-to-wall carpets, and in New York I lived in a bohemian Brownstone. This house is like an artwork in itself so I live more simply here. It’s encouraged us to pare things down and only have what we need.

“Some people can see the space as intimidating, but I find it incredibly relaxing and quiet. It really does feel a little lost amidst the bustle of the train station and the canal…it’s like opening a door into a hidden world and you just wouldn’t expect it to be here.

“So much of the furniture is part of David’s original design and it’s a real frame for the space. The previous owners used the living area for fashions shows and it’s great for entertaining. We’ve had a lot of fun cocktail parties where we’ve opened up the courtyards so people can flow in and out of the space.

“When we’re on our own we tend to spend time in the cinema room because of softer textiles and the sunken seating. The green was chosen by the previous owner and we’ve retained all of the colours that the original owners selected as another way of preserving the design. It was all very carefully considered and the green is really vibrant while the pastel tones in the bedrooms are more calming.

“I would say the planting in the light wells is one of the only things we’ve really changed. The water garden is original but we’ve built up the greenery in the other courtyards and it gives great colour and life to the space.

“My office is the one room with an external window and it has quite a different dynamic. It’s stacked with pieces from Turkey, Greece and Madagascar and I’m in the process of converting it into a by-appointment showroom for my online store, 41 Wildcard. My partner and I started the business after a trip to Cambodia, and it’s developed from our interests in travel and the local crafts and artists we encountered. We made an incredible trip to Kenya recently and have some amazing beadwork from the Maasai tribes.”

What are your thoughts on modern living?
For me, modern living is more about a feeling that you create inside four walls. It’s about inviting good people and good energy into your home, and creating a space that is safe and comfortable.

If you were to leave, what would you take to remind you of this space?
I would probably take the neon sign in the bedroom because Brian designed it for me. Each letter has a different meaning. It reads: ‘If not you then who, if not now then when?’ The Robinson mantra.

Are there any houses on The Modern House website that have caught your eye over the years?
I think we would really struggle to find a space as wonderful as this, but I really loved the Framehouse by Marcus Lee, and some of Adjaye’s other work such as Fog House in Clerkenwell. One of my favourite pastimes is to browse the website and plan our next escape with the help of your Holiday Lets!

Interested in similar properties? Explore our collection of current sales: Tales of the Unexpected: our selection of the most surreal spaces on the market.

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