Architect: Jeremy Lever
Occupying a wedge-shaped gap between two Victorian houses on Lansdowne Crescent is this masterfully designed, RIBA-award winning house by architect Jeremy Lever. Completed in 1973, the house was granted a Grade-II listing by Historic England in 2012, commending the architect for his ‘courage, invention and skill’. The house is in wonderful original condition, having only ever been lived in by the architect and his family.
Accommodation is divided over six levels, with balconies on the first, second and top floor that reveal dramatic views to the north west across the gardens and rooftops of Notting Hill and beyond. Double-height rooms create a wonderful interplay of spaces, engineering dramatic areas of volume in the living areas. The garden spills out attractively behind the house in split-level terraces, with access to a beautiful communal garden shared by the residents of Lansdowne Crescent.
Entrance is at ground level from the street, through a wide wooden front door, to a quarry-tiled lobby with space for coats and a store room behind open shelves. The wall on one side is clad with an irregular patterned birch-ply, that wraps around and covers the ceiling. At the time of construction, the original plans adhered to planning guidelines which stipulated that the ground floor should house an integrated garage. This rule was overturned, but the proportions of the entrance lobby remain the same.
Up a level to the kitchen, which sits at the back of the house and connects to a large terrace area / balcony and a brick-built spiral staircase to the lower garden. Next to the kitchen is a WC, with intricate plywood detailing on the walls, and store cupboard.
The centrepiece of the house is a split-level reception room which occupies the whole of the second floor, with projecting windows at the front and back. The room is structured over two levels and double-height on the garden side, overlooked by a gallery at upper floor level. The projecting double-height rear window gives access to a small terrace.
There is a bedroom and bathroom on the third floor, and two further bedrooms and a bathroom on the fourth floor. The uppermost floor contains a beautifully proportioned single room with a wooden scalloped coffering that follows the pitch of the roof, originally designed as a playroom but now a study and library. There is access to a small terrace at the rear with extraordinary views to the north west.
The interiors are in fantastically original condition, and maintain the original timber detailing crafted in British Columbian pine. Walls and ceilings are timber-lined or white painted render and floors are pine boards, except the quarry-tiled kitchen, kitchen terrace and entrance hall/store, the latter formerly the garage. Beautifully detailed fitted wooden furniture remains throughout the house.
Beneath the house, positioned on the ground and lower-ground floor, is a self-contained leasehold flat that is separately owned. However, the freehold belongs to the main house.
Lansdowne Crescent is one of Notting Hill’s finest streets lined with grand Victorian terraces, within easy reach of the shops, restaurants and markets of Portobello Road, Golborne Road and Westbourne Grove. The Electric Cinema, The Gate Theatre and Electric House are within walking distance. The new home of The Museum of Brands, opened in March 2016, is along the road.
The Underground stations of Ladbroke Grove (Hammersmith & City Line), Holland Park (Central Line) and Notting Hill Gate (Central, Circle and District Lines) are all close at hand. There is also good road access to the M4, A4 and A40, providing quick routes to Heathrow Airport (approximately 40 minutes). Paddington Station is also nearby for the Heathrow Express, services to the west of England, and the new Crossrail (opening in 2018).
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.
The crisp white houses on Lansdowne Crescent were built between 1860 – 1862 by the Wyatt family, a prominent architectural firm at the time. The gap between numbers 28 and 29 had existed since the houses were built, and though no-one seems to know the purpose of the gap, it is thought to have been intended for an entrance stair to access the communal gardens behind the crescent.
Narrower than the neighbouring houses, each with a frontage of around 22 feet, the gap between 28 and 29 was a mere 13 feet and 2 inches. To maximise the space between the houses, the exposed party walls on either side were left bare.
The site was identified by the architect and his family whilst dropping their children off at the local Montessori school. It had belonged to an interior designer called Roland Whiteside, who had bought the site after purchasing the neighbouring house (number 29) and gained outline planning permission in 1963 for a ‘dwelling house comprising a basement, ground and three upper floors with a built-in garage’, with provisos and about height, massing and materials, amongst other matters.
Once the site was acquired, Jeremy Lever began sketching designs and building bolsa wood models for the proposed house. Lever’s first designs (one of which is pictured here) were rather cautiously made, keeping to the traditional terrace formula of a stair to one side with two rooms on each floor, referred to historically as a ‘one pair floor’.
The Lever family soon decided that, despite all the traditional advantages, they did not want the standard terrace house layout. After a tentative beginning, there was a strong desire to move away from the traditional vernacular of the houses on the crescent, and view the infill house as a ‘hinge’ between the houses on each side that fan out in a mirror image of one another. It soon was clear that the design of the front elevation should be a well-mannered ‘mask’ but definitely not a reduced facsimile of the 1860s houses of the crescent, while the rear elevation would be as freely designed as possible.
The greatest challenge was a dimensional one, with a width of only 13 feet and 2 inches tapering by 6 inches towards the top as the neighbouring houses lean inwards over time. The breakthrough in Lever’s design came with the realisation that working with multi levels offered a scope for a more imaginative solution and a way of achieving the maximum internal and external space. The overall result, after much calculation and difficulty, was a building with six storeys at the front and seven storeys at the back. Or, as Lever liked to describe it, the model had two and a half floors at the top and two and a half floors at the bottom, with an intermediate floor that is split level and double in height.