The arrival of Modernism

An interior of The Homewood

Homewood -plan rationale_530x795

An interior of The Homewood
Architect: Patrick Gwynne (1938)
Drawing: Patrick Gwynne (1938)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Drawings & Archives Collection

Modernism in Britain still has a bad press. Too many associate this style with cheap, mass-produced design, notably the poorly-maintained concrete tower-blocks of the 1950s and 1960s. But all this was a world away from the movement’s origins: early Modernism demanded money, a style exclusive to those with their fingers on the pulse of Continental fashion.

This can immediately be grasped when looking at this composition of interiors for the Homewood, Esher by Patrick Gwynne (1938). Luxury is inherent in the design. Most obviously this is not just a bedroom, but a suite of rooms: boudoir, dressing room, and bedroom, plus bathroom and WC combine. All enjoy great spaciousness, a characteristic furthered by the design of the furniture. Gone is fussy detailing. Effect is gained more from materials than decoration, and what a mix! Leather, birch, Gabon Mahogany, French walnut, copper, and Japanese grass cloth create a rich colour and textural experience. Abstract patterned textiles and phones in every room add to the luxury, all carefully lit to create mood.

Although built for his parents, the shadow of war soon fell over this house. Gwynne’s parents died in 1942, and so never enjoyed their considerable investment in the Homewood. Instead, Patrick Gwynne moved in, and would stay till his death in 2003, adapting the house as and when desired. Hence the importance of these drawings: they reveal the original conception of the house, and Gwynne’s early brilliance, since diluted.


About the online exhibition

'How We Built Britain' is a major collaboration with the BBC


Images in the exhibition are from RIBApix, a growing database dedicated to providing you with exceptional and unique images from the RIBA British Architectural Library's collections.

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