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Annabel Karim Kassar + The Lebanese House Beirut

Saving a Home Saving a City

This is a photographic record of French Lebanese architect Annabel Karim Kassar’s installation recreating part of the façade of the late 19th century Bayt K House, a traditional Ottoman era building in the historic quarter of Gemmayzeh, Beirut. While undergoing restoration in 2020 by her architectural practice AKK, Bayt K was damaged by the Beirut Port explosion. Sarkis Khoury, Director General of Antiquities in Lebanon’s Ministry of Culture, confirmed that at least 8,000 historic buildings were damaged in the explosion including Bayt K House and the Palais Sursock. The latter, also dating from the 19th century, is located in Achrafieh and is one of the country’s grandest residences. Disrupted but undeterred, the architect has worked with Beiruti craftspeople using traditional Lebanese materials both to restore Bayt K and to recreate the house’s triple arched façade and entrance divan as a showpiece.

Nathalie Chahine and Fadlallah Dagher explain in their 2021 publication Houses of Beirut 1860 to 1925, “A very typical element of the houses, as in houses of Bilad al-Sham more generally, was the lwan or liwan. This is a room opening onto the courtyard through a wide arch.” Annabel states, “I believe the human-centred approach to designing interior spaces found in traditional cultures still has much to teach the modern world.” Her designs combine a modernist vocabulary with the language of traditional Arab, Berber and Ottoman culture and craftmanship.

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Architects Architecture Country Houses Luxury People

Eltham Lodge Royal Blackheath Golf Club Eltham London + Hugh May

Come What May

Eltham Lodge was designed by Hugh May and built in 1663 for John Shaw, 1st Baronet, banker to King Charles II,” introduces John Bunney, former Captain of Royal Blackheath Golf Club. Eltham Lodge is the clubhouse. “It is May’s last surviving newbuild. The only trace of his wing at Windsor Castle is a now internal window. Eltham would originally have had transom and mullion windows but was Georgianised by the 4th Baronet Shaw. Some of the sash windows are a panel lower inside. There are no remaining drawings or letters by May although John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys wrote about him extensively.”

The distinctive and deep timber bracketed eaves are a strong exterior feature, resembling Beaulieu House in County Louth and the demolished Eyrecourt in County Galway. “Eltham is similar in scale and appearance to three famous buildings in The Hague: The Huygenshuis, The Mauritshuis and The Sebastiaandoolen.” John notes, “It is possibly the first Flemish bond brick building in England. The porte-cochère on the garden front is a later addition.”

If a building is mentioned by the two scholars Nikolaus Pevsner and John Summerson, it’s worth visiting! “Eltham is very much a domestic house, not a grand palace, built in the clean air away from the plague and fire of the city,” he explains. “In the 1960s the cupola was removed – there may have been a rooftop terrace originally. In 1663 there were five dormers on each roof plane which can be seen in early drawings and as evidenced in the timberwork of the roof. These have been since reduced to two on each elevation. The formal gardens with fruit trees and the tapestries in the Great Chamber have all gone.”

Grinling Gibbons joined Hugh May’s team: his offset Great Stair is fully preserved. “In 1893 Eltham Lodge became a golf club,” finishes John. “But the ethos of a house in the country has been retained. May’s mantra was ‘Let one room be turned to perfection and the rest to convenience!’” The King’s Bedchamber and East India Library on the first floor overlook the entrance. The architect went for broke at Eltham Lodge with suites of rooms turned to perfection.

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Architects Architecture Country Houses Design Luxury People

Sudbrook Park + Richmond Golf Club Petersham London

All Square

The English Country Home edited by Vanessa Berridge was published in 1987. Despite its title, Sally Phipps writes about Mount River, a country house in County Kildare which would later be bought by the Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood. She notes, “The owners… worked with the architect John O’Connell, who is becoming to Irish houses what John Fowler was to English ones: many have benefitted from his keen appreciation of individual atmosphere and history.”

On an off-duty visit, John casts his unrivalled eye over Sudbrook Park, now Richmond Golf Clubhouse, Petersham. The outer London village is synonymous with Petersham Nurseries, the garden centre with a restaurant which has become the restaurant with a garden centre. Wealth is in the air. Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner observe in The Buildings of England London: South, 1983: “Petersham, for its small size, is unusually rich in fine houses of the late 17th century and 18th century whose dates and ownership require further investigation.” Grade I Listed Sudbrook, built to the design of James Gibbs, is the finest.

James Gibbs is a member of that exclusive club of architects whose surnames have become adjectives. Gibbsian, Corbusian, Miesian, Palladian. O’Connellian will come. The South London guide continues, “The enviable clubhouse of the golf course is the house by James Gibbs built in 1726 for the Duke of Argyll and Greenwich (the grandson of the Duchess of Lauderdale of Ham House). Nine bays, brick and stone dressings. Basement, main and upper storey. Slender segment-headed windows with aprons. Brick quoins, parapet. The main accent on the garden as well as the entrance side a giant portico of Corinthian columns with frieze and raised balustrade, projecting only slightly in front of the façade, so that the space behind the columns is actually a loggia. On the entrance side the effect has been spoiled by a tall extension forward of the portico. On the garden side a splendid open stair towards the entrance, starting in two flights parallel with the façade and then joining up into one. The plan is typically Palladian. The centre is a cube room which runs through from front to back portico. The other rooms open out from it, and on the upper floor have to be reached from the small staircase. The cube room is luxuriously decorated: giant coupled pilasters, coved ceiling, marble fireplace, doorways with very finely designed heads and pediment – Gibbs at his most baroque.”

“The garden front portico is in antis and so shallow it doesn’t rob the Cube Room of light and prospect,” explains John. As for the 10 metre Cube Room: “Everything is resolved. It’s a robust ensemble. James Gibbs’ workshops would have pulled all of this together and produced presentation drawings for the client. The stucco work is so emphatic. The subtle beading of the coupled Corinthian pilasters is very Mies van der Rohe in its attention to detailing!” Sudbrook Park has been the very grand clubhouse of Richmond Golf Club since the end of the 19th century.

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Architecture Art Country Houses Design Hotels Luxury People Restaurants

Updown Farmhouse Deal Kent +

Girl

Cheesy puffs; pumpkin ravioli with sage butter; potato, Lancashire and chanterelle pie; clementine polenta cake with whipped cream. And Updown Cooler: Dolin Blanc, Cocchi Americano, Muscadet and a splash of Crème d’Apricot. The walled garden of a 17th century farmhouse on the edge of Deal, the prettiest salty aired town in Kent by a country kilometre, is the serene setting for sampling a new Anglo Italian seasonal late night dinner menu. Grade II Listed Updown Farm was bought by couple Oli Brown (Chef) and Ruth Leigh (Hostess) in 2021 who had both built their careers in hospitality in London.

Over to Oli, “We looked in Somerset, we looked in Norfolk, but it just felt like we had roots here in Deal and we knew the area. It’s so close to London too. Also Deal is just such a cool place. It’s thriving and this property is just unbelievably beautiful so that made our minds up for us. The garden is enclosed by incredible woodland so it feels very remote and peaceful. Updown Farmhouse is unusual but it’s going to be a lovely place to be in, eat and to stay.”

Kent isn’t exactly short of upmarket places to be in, eat and to stay, but there’s always room for one more. Here’s a completely authenticated list so far of the Garden of England’s finest. Friendliest pub: The White Horse, Dover. Most atmospheric pub: The Lantern Inn, Martin. Oldest pub: The Rose Inn, Wickhambreaux. Best pub with restaurant: Fordwich Arms, Greater Canterbury. Best pub with rooms: The Rose, Deal. Best binational restaurant: Frog and Scot, Deal. Best cheesy restaurant: The Cheese Room, Rochester. Fanciest restaurant with rooms: The Pig, Bridge. Most seaswept restaurant: Deal Pier Kitchen, Deal. Most London-on-Sea restaurant: The Table, Broadstairs. Most exclusive restaurant: The Dining Club, Deal. Most missed: The Black Douglas, Deal. Boy.

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Hôtel du Petit Moulin Paris + Christian Lacroix

We’re Here for The Ride

“Welcome to the Hôtel du Petit Moulin! We would like to thank you for your confidence and for choosing our hotel during your visit in Paris. Le Marais is full of history, wonderful shops, galleries, museums and restaurants. In fact, the building in which the hotel is set was originally the first Parisian bakery. This is where Victor Hugo would come to buy his baguette! Today, the original shop frontage remains, reminding guests of its former past as a ‘boulangerie’, protected under French Heritage. Make yourself at home, relax and enjoy a quiet drink at the honesty bar open from noon to midnight or head to the spa of our sister hotel, the Pavillon de la Reine, situated in Place des Vosges, just a 10 minute walk away from her and available to all our guests. Have a lovely stay with us.” Luc Guillo Lohan, The Manager.

Heaven’s in the detail and the Hôtel du Petit Moulin delivers from bookmarks and business cards to brass door keys and petite boxes â picorer. Highlights of the room service from Restaurant Chez Nenesse on nearby Rue de Saintonge include entrées: salade des queues de langoustines (Dublin Bay prawn salad); plats: fillets de bar aux fines herbes (sea bass fillet, sauce with fine herbs); and desserts: mousse et sorbet chocolat sauce pistache (chocolate mousse and sorbets with pistachio sauce).

Filling a pair of 17th century buildings which couldn’t be more pre Haussmann Parisian if they tried, the ground floor was once a bar and a street corner bakery. Victor Hugo’s house on Place des Vosges is just around the corner. As Monsieur Lohan notes, the former bakery still retains a hand painted glass shopfront. There are just 17 guest rooms. One bedroom on the rez-de-chaussée. Four on the premier étage. Four on the deuxième étage stacked in the same layout as below. Four stacked on the troisième étage. One on the étage intermédiaire. Three on the quatrième étage. The architecture is full of original quirks from fragments of timber structural beams to windows floating between floors. The interior is absolutely fabulous Christian Lacroix sweetie darling.The haut couture designer clearly had a lot of fun dreaming up this Louis XV on an acid trip décor. The colourful chaos of the montaged découpaged toile de jouy in the main rooms contrasts with the calm of the white marble bathrooms. Top floor Room 402 is the largest guest suite and angles into the street corner with the best views, taking in a sweep of chimneys rising above the buildings lining Rue de Poitou and Rue de Saintonge. The mirrored ceiling provides an altogether different view, not least of the shagpile carpet. “Early to bed, and you’ll wish you were dead. Bed before 11, nuts before seven,” shrieked Dorothy Parker in her short story for The Little Hours for The New Yorker, 1933.

Nowhere does acronyms better than cultural Paris. MAD (Musée des Arts Décoratifs) is hard to beat. MAHJ (Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaisme) is exhibiting Erwin Blumenfeld’s photography. The Festival of (captured Light in the City of Light.

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Architecture Country Houses

Isaac Corry + Derrymore House Bessbrook Armagh

Luggala of the North

Driving uphill out of Newry through Bessbrook suddenly on the righthand side behind a stone wall is a brilliant flash of mustard between the thinning greenery and vibrant orange of late autumn. Aha! It’s Derrymore House, a cottage orné on a grand scale. And a very charming one at that. John Richardson, its last private owner, donated the unfurnished house and its demesne to The National Trust in 1952. In that era of architectural freezing in aspic, a sympathetic three bay extension containing an entrance hall with a central fanlighted doorcase was demolished. The early 19th century extension filled the gap on the north elevation to complete a courtyard. Derrymore was returned to its original late 18th century magnet or long C shape. A purist approach indeed.

The name Derrymore originates from ‘doire’, the Irish for an oak grove, and ‘mór’ which means large. It formed part of the lands owned by the O’Hanlons before being taken over by the Earls of Kilmorey who were based at Mourne Park in Kilkeel. It came into the ownership of Isaac Corry who built the current house in 1776 as his residence, not just a hunting lodge or summer retreat. Architect unknown: possibly John Sutherland who designed the landscaping. Isaac Corry was an MP for Newry for three decades and the last Chancellor of the Irish Parliament before the Act of Union in 1800. Politically, he swung both ways.

There are two canted bay windows: one with 82 small panes; the other, 90. At first glance, this would seem extravagant for Isaac Corry was responsible for introducing the Window Tax in Ireland. But he would have benefitted from a loophole that any window could be considered as one for taxation purposes if it was divided into portions less than a foot (30.5 centimetres) wide. Commercial pressure and building regulations dictating design are not a new phenonomen.

Derrymore is the forerunner to a spate of single storey (or at least just one level over basement) modest country houses erected in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in mid to south Ulster, especially around Rostrevor. A thatched roof draws Derrymore closer to cottage than country house in appearance although not in scale. Hugh Dixon explains in An Introduction to Ulster Architecture, 1973, “Occasionally the two traditions merge into a picturesque, Georgian vernacular style which is Ulster’s alone… undoubtedly the most ambitiously developed example of the type is the house built by Isaac Corry at Derrymore near Newry in County Armagh. Adopting both traditional materials and ‘architectural’ features like quatrefoil windows topped with label mouldings, the building is arranged as a series of small units round an open court.” There is a formality to the elevations, especially the symmetrical southwest facing garden front, at odds with the provincial roof material. A classic cottage orné combo.

Ever since, there’s been an unstoppable love of the lateral when it comes to self building in Ireland much to local planning authorities’ ire.

Before he died in 2005, Sir Charles Brett, architectural commentator and contributor to Ulster Architect magazine did a U turn on his view of bungalows in Ireland. As Chairman of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, he was a strong advocate of terraced houses. But in his later years, Charlie declared bungalows in many ways to be the rightful Irish vernacular, or at least an inheritor of the traditional cottage form. That is, single storey, rectilinear, narrow, practical.

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Architecture Country Houses Design

London + Northwest Railway Company Bungalows + Greenore Golf Club Louth

West of East India Company 

The first publication dedicated to bungalow design was by the architect Robert Alexander Briggs. Bungalows and Country Residences: a Series of Designs and Examples of Executed Works (1891) states, “A bungalow in England has come to mean neither the sunproof squat house of India nor the rough log hut of colder regions. It is not necessarily a one storied building, nor is it a country cottage. A bungalow essentially is a little ‘nook’ or ‘retreat’. A cottage is a little house in the country, but a bungalow is a little country house – a homely, cosy little place, with verandahs and balconies, and the plan so arranged as to ensure complete comfort with a feeling of rusticity and ease.”

In her slim and eloquent volume Bungalows (2014), Kathryn Ferry explains, “Until the mid 18th century familiarity with the term ‘bunglo’ was restricted to the European community in India, but knowledge gradually filtered back to Britain. As conceived by the Victorians, a bungalow was a building concerned with relaxation and recreation… The late 19th century invention of the ‘weekend’ provided more free time; improved transport infrastructure made escape possible; and mass production of materials, and even of entire structures, enabled bungalows to be built on a budget.”

The two pairs of semi detached bungalows at Greenore on the Cooley Peninsula, County Louth, tick all the right boxes from their association with leisure and a coastal location to picturesque sweeping gables and many metres of the all important verandahs. The London and Northwest Railway Company developed Greenore towards the close of the Victorian age. A long gone hotel next to a railway station was built on the quayside for passengers travelling to Holyhead in Wales. At its peak a first class train could leave Euston Station in London at 8.45pm and arrive in Belfast at 9.52am including the four hour sea crossing. Greenore Golf Club opened in 1896. The bungalows, several grand villas and a street of parallel townhouses built for dock and railway workers are all intact. The port is now industrial, the luxury passenger ferries having long gone.

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Primrose + Lavender Slieve Gullion Cottages Meigh Armagh

Girls Allowed

Have you ever ended up with a bevy of beauties in a hot tub outside Newry at 3am? Across muck and gullion (or at least over the butte of Slieve Muck and below the peak of Slieve Gullion) we stopped by to enjoy the rustic glamour of Primrose Cottage in south County Armagh. Owner Derek Johnston called over, “The two cottages, Primrose and Lavender, were converted from an aul’ barn.” Timber sash windows were inserted into the thick stone walls; slate and metal roofs reinstated. Architectural critic Martin Pawley’s 1981 essay What Does Vernacular Really Mean? concludes, “The vernacular image is much less important than the vernacular reality.” He argues that the vernacular appearance is down to economics – for example salvaged local materials – rather than arranged aesthetics.

In front of the cottages is a paddock filled with swans and pygmy goats. “Farmers are not as diverse about what animals they have as they were when I was growing up so I decided to do something about it,” he smiled. Derek Johnston is also coveniently landlord of Johnny Murphy’s pub a few metres away at the crossroads of Meigh, the local hamlet. So of course, we had to traipse along and support local business. It was a jolly and late and jolly late affair, the merits of vernacular over designed and image versus reality long forgotten. Back at Primrose Cottage, closer to sunrise than sunset, the party continued under the stars. So that’s how we ended up with a bevy of beauties in a hot tub outside Newry at 3am.

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Dover Kent + Huguenots

Vagabonds’ Entertainment

When the Eurostar used to stop at Calais it made breakfast in France much more straightforward. So the next best thing is lunch in Dover. Like its French counterpart, the English port’s charm is not always apparent to the unseeing. But the Kentish rumour mill grinding on overtime has it that Dover is the next southeast town to be discovered. So we’re here, if not ahead of the curve certainty at its tip, making a splash, ready to dive in, explore and lots more besides.

Dover’s coastal position and proximity to France made it a natural first point of settlement for Huguenot refugees. Some stayed; others moved on to Canterbury and Spitalfields in London. An early 17th century census of foreign residents in Dover recorded 78 Huguenot residents: one gardener; one shepherd’s wife; two advocates; two esquires; two maidens; two preachers of God’s Word; two schoolmasters; three merchants; three physicians and surgeons; eight weavers and wool combers; 12 mariners; 13 drapers; 25 widows and makers of bone; and a handful of other tradespeople.

Typical of Huguenot destinations, the Dover textile industry increased in prominence. Dover and Sandwich became particularly well known for wool combing, the process of arranging fibres so that they are parallel ready for spinning. A French church was already established in Dover by the arrival of a Flemish population in the 1640s. The Huguenot population of Dover was large enough towards the end of the 17th century to receive monies from the Civil List of William and Mary.

Dover is still a welcoming place to foreigners. The Town Council’s 2015 Statement of Welcome for Refugees declares: “People in Dover are compassionate and caring. Almost everyone has experience either firsthand or through families and friends of the challenges of living in a border town. Many who work in Dover have responsibility at the sharp end for the protection and freedom of citizens against those who wish harm to our national community but also for upholding British values of community and compassion to those in need.”

The Statement adds, “The names on Dover’s war memorial and the graves of the War Dead in Dover’s cemeteries testify to the determination of our community to protect our national freedoms and way of life even at terrible personal cost. Dover is a front line community with a proud history of welcoming those seeking safety when in fear of their lives. In 1685 French Huguenot refugees landed at Dover fleeing persecution for their religious beliefs.”

And finally, “Dover was the first town to welcome Jewish children saved from Germany before the Holocaust of the Second World War. A child coming to Dover remembers, ‘When I saw the famous cliffs of Dover, I got terribly excited. Inside me I had a feeling that a new era was about to start. I made up my mind there and then to start afresh.’ We understand that threats to our freedoms and values can be physical and support our Border Force in their duties. Dover people fought and died in the past to make sure that our community was a safe and caring and compassionate place to live and flourish. Dover people today are committed to working to make sure we remain a safe and caring and compassionate community where a warm welcome is given to refugees and all are able to live full and happy lives.”

Banker Michael Ramus used to work in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral London. “Its architecture inspired me to drive around and visit every cathedral in England!” he relates. Michael is of Huguenot descent. “Back in the days when there was a telephone directory there were only six Ramus families listed. Huguenots, especially in the south of France, were often successful lawyers and textile merchants.” He is the patron of several artists and fashion designers. There’s clearly an affinity with France. “I feel totally at home in France whether in the south of France, Paris or Granville in Normandy.” I spend so many holidays there but even when I’m yachting in the Caribbean I can spot the Parisian yachts!” Michael is carrying a cutting from the Encyclopaedia Britannica of his ancestor:

Ramus, Petrus, or Pierre de la Ramée (1515 to 1572), French humanist, was born at the village of Cuth in Picardy in 1515, a member of a noble but impoverished family; his father was a charcoal burner. Having gained admission, in a menial capacity, to the college of Navarre, he worked with his hands by day and carried on his studies by night. The reaction against scholasticism was still in full tide, and Ramus outdid his predecessors in the impetuosity of his revolt. On the occasion of taking his degree (1536) he actually took as his thesis ‘Everything that Aristotle taught is false’. This tour de force was followed up by the publication in 1543 of Aristotelicae Animadversiones and Dialecticae Partitiones, the former a criticism on the old logic and the latter a new textbook of the science.”

The extract also confirms, “Henry II made him Professor of Philosophy and Rhetoric at the Collège de France. But in 1561 he embraced Protestantism, and was compelled to flee from Paris, and in 1568 from France. But he returned before the Massacre of St Bartholomew (1572) in which he was one of the victims… The logic of Ramus enjoyed a great celebrity for a time, and there existed a school of Ramists boasting numerous adherents in France, Germany and Holland.”