styles and eras col­lide in a bright and bold Ben Pen­treathde­signed Lon­don home

Each room in this Arts and Crafts house has its own per­son­al­ity, com­bin­ing colour, tex­ture and style with play­ful eclec­ti­cism


‘We call this colour “freshly laid cow­pat”,’ says the de­signer Ben Pen­treath of the greeny-brown grass­cloth used on the bed­room walls of this house in north Lon­don. ‘That’s how we sold it to the owner.’ Ben is par­tic­u­larly fond of this colour; he used it in his own house. said owner laughs and ad­mits to be­ing to­tally sold on Ben, who has helped her make some brave de­ci­sions. The house, built in 1910, in an area of arts and crafts houses, was dark and very tired when she and her hus­band bought it four years ago. ‘There were lots of small rooms but no ob­vi­ous main sit­ting room,’ says her hus­band.

chris Pask of charl­ton Brown ar­chi­tects had just be­gun the task of turn­ing two ground-floor rooms into one big draw­ing room when Ben came on board. ‘The first thing was restor­ing the pan­elling in here to em­pha­sise its arts and crafts sen­si­bil­ity,’ says Ben. his of­fice drew the de­sign and it was made by symm, along with the rest of the join­ery. ‘I wanted this room to feel calm and sooth­ing,’ adds Ben, look­ing round at the neu­tral tones of the paint, fab­rics and rush mat­ting.

Ben’s in­te­ri­ors are known for a lay­ered feel­ing, a mix of ob­jects of dif­fer­ent eras and styles, so his rooms ap­pear to have been put to­gether over many years. The lay­ers in the draw­ing room in­clude a six­ties-style brass cock­tail trol­ley, twen­ti­eth-cen­tury ab­stract paint­ings, vivid sven­skt Tenn cush­ions, a nine­teen­th­cen­tury ma­hogany li­brary ta­ble, a chi­nese bowl and some moch aware mugs ar­ranged, with bashed-but-beau­ti­ful brass can­dle­sticks, on the man­tel­piece.

There are many other touches of brass through­out the house, but the sev­en­tiesin­spired din­ing room, with its grass­cloth walls, is the brassi­est of all. a mir­ror-brass side­board, de­signed for the room by ru­pert Be­van, re­flects the maze pat­tern of the rug, and there are chunky brass

can­dle­sticks on the ta­ble with a stil­novo mid-cen­tury hang­ing light over­head.

If the din­ing room is per­fect for en­ter­tain­ing, the kitchen is a scene of ar­chi­tec­tural piety. In a hand­some new wing, chris has paid trib­ute to ed­win Lu­tyens’ ma­jes­tic kitchen at cas­tle drogo, devon, fin­ished in 1930. day­light floods in from the cen­tral dome and from curved win­dows in the arched walls, light­ing a vast mar­ble-topped is­land. Be­side the metal doors, made by cle­ment, that lead to the kitchen gar­den, there is an oak ta­ble in the arts and crafts style. The rush-seated ernest gim­son-in­spired chairs were made by the War­wick­shire­based crafts­man Lawrence neal.

The pen­du­lum swings back to the mid cen­tury in the small of­fice space next to the kitchen, with its dan­ish rose­wood desk and orange hans J Weg­ner ‘Wish­bone’ chair, and con­tin­ues into an in­for­mal sit­ting room nearby, with walls in a graphic print fab­ric and a cheery yel­low ro­man blind in christo­pher

Farr cloth’s ‘Me­an­der’ linen.

up the stairs, a Wil­liam Mor­ris wall­pa­per is the back­ground for a grid of framed pressed ferns. a spare room, which opens di­rectly off the land­ing, is pa­pered in Mor­ris & co’s vivid ‘Fruit’ pat­tern. ‘I’ve al­ways loved Wil­liam Mor­ris, but I never would have dared to put those wall­pa­pers so close to­gether,’ says the owner.

Things are qui­eter in the main bed­room, where the grass­cloth walls pro­vide a calm back­ground for a yel­low sofa in the bay win­dow and a beau­ti­ful ta­ble at the end of the bed. Its shape looks con­vinc­ingly mid-cen­tury, but it was de­signed in the Pen­treath of­fice and made by ru­pert Be­van. con­cealed on the un­der­side on the hinged table­top – with clever springs and no trail­ing wires – is a tele­vi­sion screen. The ad­join­ing dress­ing room has two walls of cup­boards with ikat fab­ric pan­els. It leads to a glo­ri­ous bath­room, pa­pered in Mor­ris & co’s ‘Willow Boughs’, with brass-framed mir­rored cab­i­nets and a brass stand for the twin sinks.

In the at­tic, the hus­band’s study has views over the red-tiled roofs of other houses of the era and re­flects their colour­ing in its dark pan­elled walls. These are joined by a claret wing chair, a green sofa and an orange ot­toman. ‘The hus­band es­pe­cially wanted a dark pan­elled room. They both have strong tastes and are such good fun,’ says Ben. Both agree work­ing with him has been a joy – for his ef­fi­ciency, and for a home that is fas­ci­nat­ing to look at and easy to live in. It has also in­tro­duced them to new things: they now col­lect, among other things, arts and crafts fur­ni­ture, ed­ward Baw­den paint­ings and six­ties glass­ware. It is a house with as many lay­ers as a mille-feuille.

op­po­site page ben de­signed The kitchen cab­i­nets, which were made by symm and painted in far­row & ball’s ‘hague blue’ paint left in The din­ing area of The kitchen, a runner by roger oates was Turned into a rug. The be­spoke Ta­ble was made by christo­pher clark work­shops

from far left The walls of a spare bed­room is cov­ered in mor­ris & co’s ‘fruit’ pat­tern; The Tiles for The un­usual fire­place was sup­plied by douglas wat­son stu­dio. on The floor is an an­tique kilim

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