Icon - Arrow LeftAn icon we use to indicate a rightwards action. Icon - Arrow RightAn icon we use to indicate a leftwards action. Icon - External LinkAn icon we use to indicate a button link is external. Icon - MessageThe icon we use to represent an email action. Icon - Down ChevronUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - CloseUsed to indicate a close action. Icon - Dropdown ArrowUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - Location PinUsed to showcase a location on a map. Icon - Zoom OutUsed to indicate a zoom out action on a map. Icon - Zoom InUsed to indicate a zoom in action on a map. Icon - SearchUsed to indicate a search action. Icon - EmailUsed to indicate an emai action. Icon - FacebookFacebooks brand mark for use in social sharing icons. flipboard Icon - InstagramInstagrams brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - PinterestPinterests brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - TwitterTwitters brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - Check MarkA check mark for checkbox buttons.
You are reading

The Perfect English Townhouse, Courtesy of a UK Design Authority

Search

The Perfect English Townhouse, Courtesy of a UK Design Authority

August 20, 2018

Design writer Ros Byam Shaw is the creator of the “Perfect” series of books: Perfect English made its debut in 2007, followed by Perfect English Cottage, Perfect English Farmhouse, and Perfect French Country (as well as the instant classic Farrow & Ball Decorating with Colour). The former features editor of The World of Interiors, Byam Shaw teamed up with another WOI contributor, photographer Jan Baldwin, on all but the first of these titles, and the prolific duo has recently come out with Perfect English Townhouse, an inspiring ode to vertical living.

“If there is one thing above all else that characterizes the English townhouse, it is stairs,” writes Byam Shaw. “Where land is valuable and space is limited, you build up or dig down.” The 14 featured examples span many centuries and styles: They were selected “purely for the strength and visual appeal of their decoration.” One of our favorites happens to belong to Baldwin herself. Built in 1825, the townhouse is located on a Georgian square near Kings Cross in central London. And its elegantly low-key look—composed with a master photographer’s eye but arranged for living—belies what Baldwin and her husband bought back in 1988: an abandoned three-story structure with rain pouring in. Needless to say, years went into the resuscitation, and Baldwin says it’s still a work in progress.

Photography by Jan Baldwin from Perfect English Townhouse, courtesy of Ryland Peters & Small Inc.

When Baldwin and her husband, Henry Wynn, an emeritus professor of statistics at the London School of Economics, first went to see the house, they had to climb in through a window. &#8
Above: When Baldwin and her husband, Henry Wynn, an emeritus professor of statistics at the London School of Economics, first went to see the house, they had to climb in through a window. “It had been empty for five years and before that divided into rooms for rent.” It was built, however, as a grand family home and retained most of its original features. Shown here, the two-part sitting room with original fireplaces and arched niches.

The photographs over the front mantel are by Baldwin’s sister Didi Baldwin—and their two other siblings are also in the arts: “Our father was a cabinetmaker and our mother painted and sewed, so things were always being made in our house.”

The back parlor is differentiated from the front by charcoal gray walls. The Turkish kilim came from London textile specialists Larusi and the leather sofa is a Robin Day classic from Habitat. Baldwin and Wynn worked with architect James Engel of Spaced Out Architecture Studio on the remodel, which included restoring interior shutters in every room.
Above: The back parlor is differentiated from the front by charcoal gray walls. The Turkish kilim came from London textile specialists Larusi and the leather sofa is a Robin Day classic from Habitat. Baldwin and Wynn worked with architect James Engel of Spaced Out Architecture Studio on the remodel, which included restoring interior shutters in every room.
The back parlor&#8
Above: The back parlor’s wooden table next to the vintage leather armchair is an oak work box, a childhood present made for Baldwin by her father.
 The front hall stair and wide floorboards are original. The framed print is Moon Baby by Kiki Kogelnik.
Above: The front hall stair and wide floorboards are original. The framed print is Moon Baby by Kiki Kogelnik.
The kitchen is located on the lower level, which required extensive work: &#8
Above: The kitchen is located on the lower level, which required extensive work: “It was a semi-basement, meaning half sunk into the garden, so the only window was at ground level,” says Baldwin. “We had to lower the floor by a foot because my husband’s head touched the ceiling.”

The stove is an industrial Chester Cooker from the 1950s that Baldwin tracked down after shooting Germaine Greer’s house: “She had two of these cookers in tandem looking glorious and sparklingly clean.” Baldwin found theirs—shored up by a former Rolls Royce engineer—in Industrial Exchange & Mart, a magazine devoted to used equipment. “It luckily just fit into the existing open fire space and I had the extract hood made to fit into the actual chimney breast: The fumes go up the chimney.”

Baldwin paired a long counter of Rosa Rora marble with bold curtains of Neisha Crosland upholstery fabric (&#8
Above: Baldwin paired a long counter of Rosa Rora marble with bold curtains of Neisha Crosland upholstery fabric (“spotted while shooting for her”). Like the look? See more in New Old Trend: 10 Fresh Examples of Sink Skirts and Cabinet Curtains.
Part of the rehab work included removing a wall, so the kitchen and dining area flow into each other and open to a walled garden (lowered to work with the space) and new terrace. The furnishings came from a retro shop that has since closed; for similar chairs, go to Five Favorites: Sources for Vintage-Style French School Chairs.
Above: Part of the rehab work included removing a wall, so the kitchen and dining area flow into each other and open to a walled garden (lowered to work with the space) and new terrace. The furnishings came from a retro shop that has since closed; for similar chairs, go to Five Favorites: Sources for Vintage-Style French School Chairs.
The other remodeling challenge: Rebuilding a decrepit old extension on the back of the house (&#8
Above: The other remodeling challenge: Rebuilding a decrepit old extension on the back of the house (“it was being pulled down by an ash tree’s roots”). On the lower level, the extension became Baldwin’s workspace.
A dreamy guest room occupies the back extension on the ground floor. The French doors (with original sliding shutters) open to the upper level of the garden. Baldwin found the Marimekko curtain fabric at Portobello Market; the coverlet is from India.
Above: A dreamy guest room occupies the back extension on the ground floor. The French doors (with original sliding shutters) open to the upper level of the garden. Baldwin found the Marimekko curtain fabric at Portobello Market; the coverlet is from India.
The second-floor landing overlooks a new bathroom added as part of the rebuilt extension—there had been no upstairs bath. The window above it is also a new addition: &#8
Above: The second-floor landing overlooks a new bathroom added as part of the rebuilt extension—there had been no upstairs bath. The window above it is also a new addition: “This is the wall down which water was pouring when Jan first climbed in to view the house,” notes Byam Shaw.
The claw-foot bathtub was found in the scullery in the old basement. The table is a vintage hospital trolley; Baldwin bought the striped curtain at a French flea market, curtain rings included.
Above: The claw-foot bathtub was found in the scullery in the old basement. The table is a vintage hospital trolley; Baldwin bought the striped curtain at a French flea market, curtain rings included.
A Wallace Sewell lambswool Block throw and Artemide Tolomeo wall light in the master bedroom.
Above: A Wallace Sewell lambswool Block throw and Artemide Tolomeo wall light in the master bedroom.
&#8
Above: “My father, who understood about building and construction, had warned us to not touch this house with a bargepole, and in a way he was proved right” Baldwin told Byam Shaw. “Except that we have ended up with a house that we love and couldn’t possibly afford to buy now.”

 Perfect English Townhouse is available at booksellers all over; it&#8
Above: Perfect English Townhouse is available at booksellers all over; it’s $24.76 from Amazon.
More Required Reading:

Product summary  

Have a Question or Comment About This Post?

Join the conversation

v5.0