pic­ture This

epic art­work, iconic fur­ni­ture and a sharp eye for de­tail give Dave and gareth’s geor­gian home its mod­ern aes­thetic

Living Etc - - CONTENTS - Pho­tog­ra­phy ⁄ Paul Massey Pro­duc­tion ⁄ Mary Weaver Words ⁄ Clare En­nis

‘I DO LOVE A BIT OF KITSCH’ says a grin­ning Dave Ben­nett. ‘My prize pos­ses­sion is a hideous oil paint­ing of a mi­nor royal, which I bought on ebay. Un­for­tu­nately, it’s been ban­ished to the at­tic!’ Dave and his hus­band Gareth Orr are se­rial art col­lec­tors and for them, rather than ac­quir­ing ex­tra room for a grow­ing fam­ily, it was their ever-ex­pand­ing art col­lec­tion that mo­ti­vated them to up­size.

Hav­ing sold their sin­gle­ton homes at the height of the 2008 fi­nan­cial cri­sis, they pooled their re­sources to buy a place to­gether. ‘We were lucky. We sold at the right time and then looked at a ton of un­suit­able prop­er­ties,’ ex­plains Dave, an Amer­i­can who’s lived in Lon­don for 22 years. ‘There’s just us two. No kids. We wanted a gen­uine pe­riod house, but one that wasn’t a typ­i­cal fam­ily home.’

Then this Grade Ii-listed Geor­gian town­house in a fash­ion­able north Lon­don neigh­bour­hood caught their eye. ‘At 1,800 square feet, there was plenty of space, but the con­ven­tional lay­out jarred with our life­style,’ Dave re­calls. ‘We spent the first year sort­ing out the struc­tural stuff, damp is­sues and so on, which meant we had this en­forced pe­riod of time to live in the house and prop­erly con­sider how the light worked and how best to re­jig the rooms to suit us.’

Orig­i­nally ar­ranged as a tra­di­tional four-bed­der, the thought­ful re­think saw the house trans­formed into some­thing much more them: a deluxe two bed, with var­i­ous en­ter­tain­ing spa­ces, all drenched in the per­son­al­i­ties of its own­ers. The bland, all-cream colour scheme was jet­ti­soned in favour of at­mo­spheric and his­toric hues of grey, pur­ple and green, used as a back­drop to en­hance the el­e­gant pieces of be­spoke join­ery, luxe sur­faces and rich, mas­cu­line ma­te­ri­als, such as wal­nut, mar­ble and slate.

‘For in­spi­ra­tion, we bor­rowed more from a mid-cen­tury aes­thetic than from the Geor­gian roots you might ex­pect,’ says Gareth. ‘One of my guilty plea­sures is brows­ing Amer­i­can pe­riod-house list­ings, where you see some great ex­am­ples of con­tem­po­rary mixed with mid cen­tury. It’s a look we’ve en­joyed adapt­ing and putting our own twist on here.’

As a re­sult, fur­ni­ture by a wealth of de­signer names pep­pers the rooms, es­pe­cially when it comes to chairs, with pieces by Charles and Ray Eames, Nor­man Ch­erner and Hans J Weg­ner all get­ting a show­ing. ‘I love a com­fort­able chair that mar­ries de­sign and func­tion,’ says Gareth. ‘In the liv­ing room, we drafted in ex­tra stools – the Eames ‘Time Life’ stools were a great find – for when we have a lot of guests. They take up so lit­tle room, we can squeeze in ten peo­ple when needs be.’

But for all the lux­u­ri­ous flour­ishes in the main liv­ing spa­ces, the kitchen is the cou­ple’s go-to spot for re­lax­ing. ‘Dave loves to cook and we wanted a space where friends could hang out and chat, while he rus­tled up din­ner,’ ex­plains Gareth. Hav­ing toyed briefly with tra­di­tional tim­ber kitchens, even­tu­ally they set­tled on a be­spoke Jack Trench de­sign, so achingly smart, it makes you smile. Re­plac­ing an el­derly Ikea num­ber, it de­liv­ers a sleek mélange of wal­nut cab­i­netry and mar­ble work sur­faces and there’s a cool cen­tral is­land, per­fect for food prep as well as for so­cial­is­ing.

Most im­por­tantly, the house’s abun­dant wall space al­lows the pair to ac­com­mo­date all that ac­cu­mu­lated art­work. ‘The col­lec­tion started years ago, with the Damien Hirst spot paint­ing, which I had to pay for in in­stal­ments in or­der to be able to af­ford it, as I was liv­ing on baked beans at the time,’ says Gareth, laugh­ing. ‘Then I met Dave and our col­lec­tion just kept on ex­pand­ing, un­til here we are, ten years later, al­most run­ning out of space again!’ So now pieces by Tracey Emin and David Schein­mann and oth­ers vie for at­ten­tion on ev­ery wall. ‘As the house has evolved, the art has ac­tu­ally slot­ted in pretty well and ev­ery­thing has found a nice home,’ says Dave. ‘Gareth and I have pretty sim­i­lar taste, so there haven’t been too many art clashes…. That mi­nor royal aside, of course.’

‘WE WANTED TO MIX EV­ERY­THING UP, SO IT’S NOT A HIS­TOR­I­CAL HOME, BUT A PLACE YOU LOVE TO LIVE IN’

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