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