The Househunter: An Artist’s Studio in London

To West London and a rather fabulous three bedroom property designed by Frederick Wheeler in the 1890s to “suit the requirements of bachelor artists” and there’s so much to unpick in that sentence that all I’m going to say is that it really needs to be bought by a woman. Maybe even a woman who doesn’t have a creative bone in her body although I think everyone has at least one if they take the time to find it.

It’s on with John D Wood for £1.8m (so it would have to be a pretty successful artist of either gender to afford it now) and, at the time, it was quite the artistic enclave with pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne Jones living nearby, along with the landscape artist William Logsdail while the ballet dancer Margot Fonteyn was also in the neighbourhood.

Years ago, when The Mad Husband and I first moved to London we had a tiny flat in this part of town and would walk past these buildings on a Saturday afternoon on our way to Sainsbury’s for the weekly shop. It’s now a thundering A road but those windows are still the stuff of dreams.

The house, as it is now arranged, spreads over three floors – lower ground to first. You come in via the raised ground where there is a reception room, bedroom and bathroom. Below that are two more bedrooms, one en suite, and then there is the money shot on the first floor where there is this large room – with that window – and an open plan kitchen dining space.

It’s probably one to just have a look at as it seems improbable that anyone is grappling with similar decorative issues. You might want to change the layout as the sofa has its back to the window so it can face the fire, likewise for anyone at the kitchen peninsula.

And there’s probably no way round the fact that the kitchen window is probably too high to see out of so it’s just about allowing more light in to the room rather than giving you a view to admire.

The owners have used rugs to zone the space although that has created a series of small islands. One point I will make is take a look at the kitchen. Chocolate brown is tipped as THE new colour that is coming through although – as regular readers will know – this means it won’t fully arrive for probably three years and will stick around for a while after that so you’ve got time. I’m torn on this as I’have had a chocolate brown sitting room for about four years and a kitchen for three so I’m starting to worry that I will tire of it just as it’s getting going. Not there yet thought.

I think it goes hand in hand with the fashion for dark/vintage wood rather than the Scandinavian paler oak and beech and it’s also happy to mix with other colours. It loves all the creams and pinks and isn’t averse to a spot of bright blue as well. Keep any yellows very pale and creamy and think of eucalyptus if you fancy green.

One point – that again might be niche, is that if you have very tall ceilings you can afford to go bold with the colour a lowering effect might make a large room more cosy. Note on the mantelpiece above how the tall lamps draw the eye up to meet the ceiling. This is the key with a high ceiling – you need to try and create a relationship between it and the things in the room below. So in a bedroom a four poster can do this very well as a standard bed might look too small for the space.

This is the sitting room on the lower ground floor and while it’s quite a change in mood, it’s a room of more usual proportions so you can see why the owners have gone for a change and wrapped it in blue. I’m still going to make my usual comments about skirting boards because irrespective of how tall your walls are, or you want them to look, it’s cosier and more calming to keep them the same. I’m a big fan of the natural wood shelves though. I’m guessing they didn’t come from the giant Swedish superstore on the ring road.

Now I will say I have mixed feelings about this bathroom. This is a property without a discernable red thread and it’s not only crossing style periods but also continents. This has a definite Moroccan feel to it – I do love the check counter – but the mirror is super modern and the archway cannot be original.

The red thread isn’t about matching all your colours and styles but it IS about linking all the different elements of your decor so that the house tells the story of who lives there. I might have taken this red colour into the sitting room above with cosy terracotta walls. Or had a less industrial worktop than the stainless steel. All these elements are great on their own and the rooms are lovely but it’s hard to find the linking element.

I’m showing you the bedroom because when I don’t you ask but again, this looks it could belong to a totally different house. Perhaps the unusual bathroom ties to the utter outrageousness of the main room and leads you to the heart of a creator while the blue sitting room and pale bedroom show you the more organised side of the person.

Anyway, I have always wanted to see inside these houses and now I have been able to and so have you. Would you buy it if you had a spare £2m knocking about?

Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. If I wanted to buy an artist’s studio, I think it would need to be somewhere else – rather than slotted between noise and noise. Especially if I was an artist.

    It’s worth a note that the big window faces North, and that the place is listed so it will be tricky to mitigate the noise.

    So not for me. When I was in London around the millenium, one of these was on the market at £400k. Which makes it a very strong argument for removing tax breaks on soaring house values.

    1. Is it a useful to make a comparison with modern live-work spaces, which are the same idea?

      Say at Bedzed.

  2. For me, at least, coordinating all rooms in the house to have a similar feels seems unnecessary. I see the need for cohesion in all the *public* areas of the house, but is there no argument to be made that the private areas of the house–those that will only ever be seen by family and the very closest friends–not only can but perhaps even *should* create a change of tone? I love that bathroom, and while it definitely doesn’t flow with the house as a whole, I can imagine the owner allowing something more colorful/whimsical/unusual in the master. To me some kind of tonal demarcation seems fitting. (Not that I have actually done this myself, but I can imagine doing so in future.)

  3. So sad, an Arts and Crafts house with unsympathetic interiors that as you say don’t hang together. And you were kind not to mention the too small prints on the walls. Sounds seriously overpriced given it’s location.

  4. Agree about the bathroom. It could be pulled back in synch by using some darker paint, and some wood and/or brass accessories to try to link it to the Arts & Crafts movement.

  5. Of course, something interesting to note is that Ruby Levick was one of the first artists to move in once they were built. They may have been built for men, but a woman got there first.

  6. Do you think these are the houses that the Cormoran Strike book The Silk Worm references for a gruesome murder?! There was mention of West London artists studios and beautiful light from enormous windows upstairs

      1. Yes I thought exactly the same when I read the book! They are so distinctive. Lovely to have a peek inside one!

  7. Beautiful buildings, but with the really busy road in front and the tube lines ( which also run at night) only a few feet behind, the location is tragic.

  8. It is a lovely window. From the outside. From the inside either the floors are too low or the windows to high… It doesn’t give me the feels.

  9. Dream house for the bones, less so for the location unfortunately, and I really don’t like what’s been done to it recently, I’m afraid.

  10. Wonderful space. Yes, I would definitely buy it – if I had a lovely cottage in the country to retreat to. Cheers from Canada!

  11. How interesting! Have driven past these many times. Gorgeous window, and you can really sense the history in the main room as an artists studio. However, you wouldn’t be able to double glaze that giant windiw or do any kind of sound proofing so that would stop me buying it however much it was! No way to busy roads, so unrelaxing!!

  12. I love the period details in the living room but I like being able to see out of the window and it doesn’t look like it’s possible. Also a busy A road and it’s 1.8 million? Really?

  13. Friend of mine lives in one of these – they’re wedged right between the A4 and the tube line so, lovely as that window is, the noise is like nothing I’ve heard before inside a house (and I’ve lived by an airport!)

    Fun to think of how to tackle that big room though…

  14. me too, thank you for showing us inside.
    I expect it is quite noisy with probably single glazed windows.
    Would have been nice to have more artwork around too.

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