I explained in Part 1 that my preference is for modernist architecture, and the home pictured below is possibly the most starkly modern place I’ve shot. Not all the décor is to my taste but I loved this place – designed by husband & wife team Claudia, an architect whose offices are incorporated in her home, and Werner, an engineer. It sits amid far more conventionally styled homes in a village not far from Michelstadt, south of Frankfurt – but Germans seem more prepared to accept radically individual houses than we do. I found it because Claudia is friends with the secretary at my brother-in-law’s company near Frankfurt (!) and featured it for KBB magazine.
A further example of the German taste for modernist architecture is this villa in Ibiza, commissioned from a local architect by an elderly German lady – who abandoned it before completion, selling it to a young English couple who finished it beautifully, with super décor. This shot was done by a friend, since during my late autumn visit to the island the weather was atrocious! The interiors were great, but this exterior had to be taken at another time of year… Again, covered for KBB magazine. If I had to live on Ibiza this house would be my first choice, in the island’s centre, away from what is often a desert of tackiness around the coast.
By way of contrast, here’s a classic English home on the edge of the Cotswolds, built in 1841 so very early Victorian, but architecturally Georgian. I got onto this through the architects who’d built a surprisingly radical, modern, copper clad kitchen extension onto the back. It’s a beautiful house, spacious, with lovely gardens, and filled with the fine art collected by its highly creative owners. I had strong interest from one of the very top titles, but had to settle for a lesser magazine in the end. Still, it was lovely to see and photograph: my stylist Claire loved the place too.
Occasionally I end up shooting a feature home not for any intrinsic architectural style, or the décor, but because of who lives there. This was the case with the next two pictures: a pleasant old house that in France might be described as a “maison de maïtre” but unexceptional, except that it was the second home of a lady christened Sylvette David and known to the art world as the “girl with a ponytail” who modelled for Picasso in 1954 and featured prominently in his Paris exhibition that year. Of Anglo-French parentage, she inherited the house from her father Emmanuel David, a Paris art dealer. I met her in Devon where she spends most of her time, and subsequently did the feature for The Guardian Weekend magazine; interestingly, a Google for “Sylvette David” brings up my name and that 2004 feature on the first page of results, evidence of continuing interest in Picasso’s famous model.
I’d always wanted to find a HufHaus to photograph, and finally came across this gorgeous example in the outer London suburbs. Not the classic Huf design with steeply pitched roof, but flat roofed. The owners experienced one of the longest and most onerous planning procedures I ever encountered! It illustrated perfectly the difficulty of building something a little out of the ordinary in this country. Planners are ultimately bureaucrats, for whom it’s easier to say “No” than to go out on a limb and approve something different. But the Huf company went the extra mile, not only providing a superb technical service but assisting with planning too. Seeing this house, and hearing the story, made me think seriously that if I were to build my own home, a HufHaus (or something very similar) is the way to go…