Open House: historic paint specialist Pedro da Costa Felgueiras’ restored Georgian house in Whitechapel
In our ‘Open House’ series, we meet the owners of some of our most exceptional homes ahead of their sale. Here, we meet historic paint specialist Pedro da Costa Felgueiras in his restored Georgian house in Whitechapel.
“I call Whitechapel ‘Spitalfields-sur-mer’ because it has similar historic houses but it’s nearer the river! The houses on this street were saved by the Spitalfields Trust, who first started protecting historic buildings in the 1970s.
“I came to London from Portugal 30 years ago and studied conservation, setting up my practice, Lacquer Studios, in 1995.
“The first place I bought in London was a flat in Keeling House, designed by Denys Lasdun, up the road in Bethnal Green. It’s kind of Brutalist and minimalist, which is funny to think of compared to this place.
“Then a group of friends from the Spitalfields Trust more or less forced me to live here! They pretty much grabbed me by my collar and told me I was going to buy the house.
“I say they forced me but this is totally my dream house and I was very lucky to be able to apply my professional work to creating a beautiful home for myself. When I first started restoring it I was like a kid in a sweet shop – it was so exciting.
“That was in 2007. The house had been abandoned for 30 years and had no roof, drains, electrics … nothing – it was going to be demolished.
“It took me two years before I could move into the top part of the house, and I lived there for another three years before the building work was completed.
“I loved the process of doing it and put a lot of love and time into it. I would work on the house from 8am until 4pm and then go to my studio from 4pm until midnight.
“As this is very much my dream house, I restored it in a very idyllic and authentic way. Whereas other homes on the street were using contemporary building techniques, I used lath, which involves lime and horse plaster applied to split strips of green oak.
“I love old techniques because they require a different way of thinking. It’s about going back to basics, I suppose, having respect for the environment and spending the time to think more deliberately.
“The amazing thing about this house is that when you walk in you sort of step back in time. It’s a common remark I get from visitors, that they feel like they’re in another world, especially if they come in the winter and I’m sitting by the fire.
“But, at the same time, the restoration included insulating the roof, rewiring the electrics and laying underfloor heating in the basement. So, this is a Georgian house that functions as well as a contemporary home.
“Everyone knows how exhausting being in London for 30 years can be; life here is very fast paced. I have a farmhouse in Portugal, and that’s where I want to spend more time.
“At the moment the farmhouse is a complete ruin but it’s going to be an amazing project, and I want to do it up properly.
“The walls are made of compacted mud, which, ecologically, is an amazing material and insulation-wise there is nothing better. I want to restore it with a similar ethos I applied here: an element of history and an element of design.
“It’s about finding a new balance in my life; I don’t care for trends or keeping up with the pace of life here anymore. I will still be in London for Lacquer Studios, but I’ll have a big, well-organised studio in the farmhouse where I can expand my work, and there will be a bit more time for gardening and digging potatoes.”