Art Deco Thirties home: A blast from the past

This is a treasure trove of carefully restored original features. Nick Lloyd Jones steps into a time warp
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The Independent Online

This three-bedroom Art Deco house in the south London suburb of New

Malden was snapped up by its present owner, Jackie Rickard, about 12 years ago. Now fully restored to its former glory, it is back on the market at just £335,000 - a surprisingly low asking price reflected by its close proximity to the A3.

The house was designed by the architect RA Duncan in 1934 as part of a planned 250-unit residential development called the Village of Tomorrow. The scheme fell through and ultimately only about 20 of the proposed houses ever got built.

For Jackie, herself a dealer in artefacts from that period, it was love at first sight. "I adore Art Deco architecture and particularly like the way this house combines simplicity of design with various daring decorative flourishes such as the windows that wrap around the side of the house to create sun traps."

Another major plus for Jackie was the fact that it hadn't been tampered with. However, this had its downside too. "It was a complete tip and it felt like stepping into some kind of time warp," says Jackie. "The same family had been living here ever since it was built and literally nothing had been done to the place since the 1930s. There wasn't even any hot water."

However, beneath all the dirt and grime, Jackie discovered a treasure-trove of original features such as the elaborate glass-and-chrome light-fitting in the entrance hallway and the series of foldaway units in the kitchen including a breakfast table, a pair of benches and an ironing board. Elsewhere around the house all of the original fireplaces were still intact and in working order.

However, not all of house's original features had fared quite so well and some had either perished or rotted away. Jackie patiently set about restoring these as well. The old Formica work surfaces in the kitchen, for instance, were totally worn out. As these are no longer manufactured, Jackie had to hunt around for several years before eventually tracking down and salvaging some replacement strips from a timber yard. It took her an equally long time to find a replacement pane for the broken stained-glass window in the kitchen but she eventually succeeded.

Apart from restoring, Jackie has also made several significant additions to the house. She has installed central heating and made a series of structural alterations. The back reception room to the left of the entrance hallway was knocked through and an extension added on at the back to create an enormous split-level living room.

The south-facing back garden had become totally overgrown and also needed attention. Jackie first cut everything back and then installed a stone terrace ringed by circular steps leading down to a low-maintenance timber decking area with herbaceous borders and a fish pond.

Meanwhile, to the right of the recessed entrance porch, she erected an additional single-storey wing comprising a garage at the front with a WC behind as well as a new utility room that she equipped with all the mod cons she felt were out of keeping in the setting of the Art Deco kitchen. The shape, lines and proportions of the two new extensions complement those of the original house well and have succeeded in seamlessly blending in with it.

The three upstairs bedrooms also retain their original decorative plasterwork and chunky fireplaces while the adjoining bathroom still dazzles with its emerald green tiled walls shot through with chrome and mirrored stripes. The bath, loo and basin are all classic 1930s porcelain and the only concession Jackie has made to modern living has been to install a shower.

A second flight of stairs is capped with a skylight and provides access to the large roof terrace where Jackie often escaped while working on the house.

"I deliberately left it uncluttered," she says. "I'm convinced that the contrast between the calm up there and the mess downstairs is the only thing that kept me sane."

Jackie now plans move to Alicante where she hopes the Spanish sunshine will help relieve her arthritis. She is understandably sad to be leaving a house in which she has invested so much. "I would take the place with me if I could," she says. Instead of that, she's done the next best thing - found another Art Deco house over there. "It will remind me of my life in New Malden," she says, "and I just know I'm going to feel at home there."

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