The paint specialist, sculptor and commercial artist Richard Clark lives in a four-bedroom, detached Edwardian house in Forest Hill, south London, with his wife Tina and their children
have lived here since 1998, when we moved from a terraced house in Brockley. The house was requisitioned by the council after the war, and was a council property afterwards. It's a sort of Mary Celeste of a house, one of the few survivors in a heavily bombed area. There's another group of original houses further up the road, but most have been replaced by council estates, which add colour, flavour - and lots of graffiti. Directly opposite there is a nature reserve belonging to a local school, so we look out on to huge trees, as well as lots of foxes and squirrels.
I like the area round here, and visit the Dulwich Picture Gallery at least once a week, as well as the fascinating Horniman Museum and Dulwich Woods and Dulwich Park. I also play a lot of cricket, and there are lots of grounds in the neighbourhood.
When we bought the house, the previous occupants had carpeted over the tiled floor in the hallway, and some of the fireplaces had been taken out, but all the doors, cornicing and joinery were original.
The first thing I did was to rip out the kitchen. The house is built on a triangular site, so one side of it is two rooms deep, the other side is only one room deep, and some of the rooms are wedge-shaped. The kitchen is made up of an oblong section and a wedge, and I built the functional part of the kitchen into the wedge shape, so it's like a galley kitchen - very simple, with flat-fronted cupboards painted to look like steel. The walls are panelled in painted wood up to frieze height, in an arts and crafts style. The ceiling in the oblong part of the room, above the table, has been painted cream and gold, while in the galley area it's a drab brown. We have a huge oak table and chairs, bought locally in Catford. I replaced all the knackered floorboards with hardwood strips.
After the kitchen, I renovated the windows, which are a mixture of casement and sash. The house is a real pot-pourri - the walls are brickwork, mixed with rough-cast and half-timbered areas. I think it must have been a builder's house originally, as it is full of experimental touches. Since I've lived here I've renovated all the interior surfaces.
The main room, which I call our salon, is painted in an austere yet warm grey colour. Again, it has an arts and crafts feel. The walls are articulated with panels, the tint of which is derived from the ceiling plaster colour that I found when I removed the paper there. This colour is the key to the look of the room.
In here I have a lovely Fifties desk, a French piece that I found in Sydenham. Other stuff has just been collected randomly. The room is fairly spartan, and it doesn't have any books in it; they're all in a room upstairs. This is where I like to listen to jazz and the cricket commentary on my 1957 Grundig valve radio.
My family hate what I've done to this house. They've vacated all the beautifully decorated rooms and shuffled upstairs with packets of crisps and drinks into their filthy rooms with four or five TVs to watch EastEnders. They would probably all prefer to live in a Thirties semi with a double garage and lots of pets.
I also have a studio in bleakest Bow. The work I do is really superfluous, irrelevant. I work as a bespoke decorator for very wealthy people, but I would also love to work on schemes for hospitals or something more philanthropic. It seems like biting the hand that feeds me, but I hate TV makeover programmes.
We have some beautiful things in the house - especially in our bedroom, which has a lovely Betty Joel Thirties armoire, made of mahogany and macassar ebony, and with sliding drawers and mirrors inside. The room is big and beautifully lit from two directions, and there's a little kind of square turret with a window at 45 degrees to the front of the house, which makes it particularly lovely in the mornings.
The hallway has a terrazzo floor that I have renovated. The staircase is very beautiful, and made from pitch pine with ecclesiastical square banisters. The walls are finished in my own stucco, plastered and waxed to a polished finish, which is an off-white marbly colour. It's easily maintained and hardens up well.
We don't have carpets, just floorboards and rugs, although more boards than rugs as they are rather expensive. We also have a bad moth problem, which is apparently common in South London. They get everywhere.
Outside, the garden continues the unorthodox shape of the house, with triangular bits, planted in shrubs and hedging. The exterior woodwork of the house is painted olive green and the front door is wood-grained with two side panels. There's also a very interesting façade at the front, an "architectural palaver", which is two Corinthian pilasters on pediments, and it's very overblown and a bit eccentric, with two gilded balls on top of the pediments. I have stripped the paint off them so that they look like stone, and I have quite successfully filled and disguised the damaged bits.
There is always more work to be done on the house. When I first saw it I thought it was very interesting and tried to decide whether or not I could envisage being carried out of it in a box. I didn't appreciate at the time that it might kill me, though.
- More about:
- Dulwich Picture Gallery
- Fireplaces And Ovens
- Kitchen (room)