News Article

Modern luxe

News Article

Modern luxe

We explore a feature-packed Modernist gem of a location, set in three acres of beautiful grounds – and all in London…

While the Fresh Locations library is impressively vast, we still hand-pick all of our locations, to ensure that each one brings something special to the mix.

In the case of ‘Sheen Modern’, it’s hard to quantify the number of USPs. How often do you get a vast Modernist-inspired house full of beautifully proportioned, stunning rooms on a par with the finest homes in LA? How often to you get three acres of mature and manicured grounds, giving onto parkland and complete with kitchen garden, orchard, fields, stables and yurt? All in London. And did we mention the sleek swimming pool, which can be both between indoor and outdoor, to suit your mood.

This incredible residence is the brainchild of husband and wife, Simon and Sam. They moved to leafy Sheen from Islington, back in 2000 when they had their first child, initially living in another house nearby ‘we were driving through Richmond Park and saw a herd of deer in the low-hanging mist and thought, ‘this is rural enough for us!’’ When this plot of land came onto the market, Sam decided to check it out. At the time, it was occupied by an unpromising Seventies-Eighties mish-mash of a place, but the three-acre garden, bounded on two sides by parks, was the star, ‘It was a wintry day when Sam visited, with everything under inches of snow, she said it looked like Narnia, but in London! She came back brimming with enthusiasm,’ remembers Simon. Sadly though, the price was extortionate and they had to let it go. But then came the crash of 2008, the other buyer pulled out and the couple decided to go for it. It was a process fraught with complications and anxieties, the land was bound by numerous covenants, including one with the Crown, but all have now been happily resolved. The couple moved into the existing building and began to make their plans. There was planning permission in place for an imposing four-storey Queen Anne-style property but Simon, who grew up in Hong Kong, wanted something more modern, ‘People today want open-plan living but end up shoe-horning that into traditional homes, I didn’t want some pastiche of a previous era, I wanted to reflect the times.’ Sam took more convincing but, once they found a great architect, Andraos Associates, and visited some of their previous projects, she was firmly on board. They were already living in the existing building, which gave them an insight into how the sun tracked around the site and how they might lay out a home, ‘we started from the inside out, thinking about how we wanted to live and organise the rooms, to minimise traffic and maximise a sense of flow.’

Richmond planning office aren’t noted for their broad-minded approach to modern architecture but the couple won through by creating a win-win situation, gaining a much bigger footprint – around 16,000 square feet – by creating a low-slung building that is virtually invisible from the road and adjacent parks. The clean rectilinear design is tempered by the curves of an elegantly elliptical roof and timeless statement staircase, ‘people call it my feminine staircase,’ laughs Simon, ‘but you need some curves to soften things.’

They kept the material palette deliberately simple, ‘we call it the Kyoto treatment, with a stone ramparts on the lower floor and an elegant wooden box above.’ Although this description belies the man-hours involved. The stone, all from a quarry in Lancashire, was hand-knapped on site by five specially trained workmen ‘tick-tick-ticking away for nine months’ to create a contemporary nod to the ancient British craft of dry-stone walling. Meanwhile the timber has been epoxy-infused to ensure that it will continue to look as beautiful as it does now.

A lot of effort was made to get the proportion of the rooms right, ‘you can have a very large room but if the aspect ratio isn’t good in can feel as if the sky’s falling in. The architects were brilliant at getting things onto a human scale. They had so many wonderful ideas, things that might not make sense on paper but that contribute to the overall success of the building.’ Sam happily deferred to almost all of their suggestions, ‘after all you don’t tell a black cab how to drive. To this day I am surprised and delighted on a weekly basis by what they have done.’

Similar trouble was taken with the inside of the house where the vast kitchen’s central statement is a seven-metre long monolithic countertop in sleek stainless steel – which proved a logistical challenge, ‘in the end we managed it but it took fourteen people to get it in place.’ The furniture mixes timeless Ligne Roset sofas, decadent Murano chandeliers and a personal touch with the dining table, fashioned from a tree that fell down in the garden.

While the quality of south-facing light and up-scaled rooms go to make this a wonderful location for filming and stills photography (‘crews tell us they love it because they can use a long lens’), the house works brilliantly as a location because everything has been so well thought out, ‘it’s more like several locations in one’ says Simon. There are plenty of bedrooms, and a separate self-contained staff flat that can be used for hair and make-up, wardrobe or as a green room. They have also future-proofed the electrics, creating a three-phase power board, available by arrangement, allowing major shoots to just wire in their commando socket and get going, without the need for a generator.

There are many distinctive living spaces including an outdoor living area and incredible media room that works brilliantly as a cinema or night-club – complete with bar and disco lights. There’s that beautiful pool – complete with sauna and gym – and so many great features in the grounds, such as the yurt brought back from Ulaanbaatar and decorated in glamorous Moroccan fashion. The timber overhang around the house keeps it cool in summer but lets in the low winter sun and provides shelter for outside shooting on bad-weather days. Then there’s off-road parking for 22 vehicles (with more space offsite for catering trucks etc, by arrangement). They have great relationships with the neighbours who are at a sufficient distance that late working and night shoots are not a problem.

Even the garage causes a stir, ‘car shoots tell us it’s the kind of polished space they normally have to travel to the US or Germany for’ says Simon. Feedback for the location has been great, ‘one tech giant came here to get two shots but there was so much scope that they ended up doing seven. Fresh Locations have guided us very well and all our clients have all treated the place with respect – we’ve had a really good time with all our shoots.’ It’s good to know that our clients are as happy with us as we are to have them registered with Fresh Locations.