On one of London’s top A-list streets, where neighbours include Kate Moss, Jude Law and Sting, as well as George Michael’s former home, stands a “time capsule” house — a glimpse back to an era before the rich and famous moved in.
The modest two-storey home in Highgate provides a fascinating insight into mid-century interior design tastes that were in vogue more than 200 years after the construction of the imposing Queen Anne and Georgian mansions that surround it.
The house dating back to just after the Second World War and virtually unchanged since, is on the market for the first time since it was built, with the original mint green kitchen and pale pink bathroom still in place.
However, this period piece could be lost to history when sold: the modern Highgate buyer tends to favour 21st-century tech, modern kitchens and bathrooms and neutral decor.
“Subject to planning the house could be knocked down and started again or it could be converted into a three- or four-bedroom house with a downstairs kitchen and living room leading out into the garden,” says Steve Day, of Day Morris, who are handling the sale.
Today, the property cuts a modest picture next to some of its flashier neighbours. But when it was built for a local GP and his wife almost 65 years ago, it was at the forefront of modern design.
The home has been put on the market by the couple’s 91-year-old son, who doesn’t wish to be named. He has lived in the house for the past 20 years after a medical career largely spent in America and Africa.
Original Fifties features
The £2.5 million property is crammed with unique features that were hi-tech for its time.
Dreamed up by the doctor and his wife, they foreshadowed some of the features that come as standard in high-end new-build homes today.
A centralised radio system – a sort of early Sonos – is wired throughout the two-storey property, so the residents can listen to music in any room, including in the garage and on the balcony.
Five buttons on a kitchen wall light up to raise the alarm if the garage door is left open or unlocked, or if there is anything blocking the post hatch that’s built into the wall.
A cupboard between the living room, bedroom and balcony was once home to a large Sixties box television, installed on a turntable so that it could be spun around and watched in the living room, in bed, or even from the balcony.
Inspired by American homes
By then living and working at Stanford in California, the couple’s son wrote home about many of the modern home features he encountered in the US.
“One of the things I said was to try and have a foot pedal for the loo,” he says. “They also have a lot of underfloor heating in the States so I communicated that and he put it in. It was absolutely useless, so when I moved here the first thing I did was put in central heating.”
Inspired by America: the original pink bathroom features a foot-pedal loo flush
A general-purpose study room fitted with parquet flooring was previously a table tennis room, where the GP and a selection of neighbours would play every Friday night until his death.
The room has eight ceiling light fittings, specially installed to illuminate the game. The only other furniture besides the table tennis table was a cupboard “which contained the chocolate of the house – my father was a chocolate addict”, says the seller.
The property is full of bespoke touches, from the living room light fitting with a red flower design that’s picked up in the made-to-match carpet, to the clocks built into walls and furniture in each room.
A coat cupboard in the downstairs hall was also bespoke, with a lower rail on one side: “My mother was very short, so that’s the short stuff, and the tall stuff in the other side.
Back to the future: the house is a true period piece
“The kitchen-dining room was in those days very original — he more or less designed the kitchen, with a bit of help from my mother, I suspect. The larder amuses people because they’ve never seen a larder before — it’s not really changed at all, except some of the food.”
The dining table has two flip-down benches, rather than chairs, to save space and make it easier for people to get in and out, and while the kitchen was designed in the modern open-plan style, “Mother hated the idea of people watching her cook while they wait, so we have two blinds between the kitchen and dining area,” explains the seller.
There is also a two-and-a-half-car garage, where the Highgate GP kept his two cars and a smaller three-wheeled vehicle.
“It’s quite a joke really because everybody in the road has one or two cars but this is the only garage and I don’t have a car,” adds the seller.
Find out more from Day Morris, 0208 348 8131.