My Home: Phillip Brown - Apex Drive

Where better to base a business selling classic iconic furniture than in a stylish Sixties apartment block? Joey Canessa reports
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I had been familiar with this development for five or six years before we bought our place. I'd always loved the look of it and couldn't believe how good the apartments were when I finally saw inside. At that time, we lived in a small, two-bedroom flat in Camberley, about three miles away.

Tracy was away at college doing her MA and I'm afraid that I was so excited by the possibility of owning one of the apartments that I sold our place and bought this without asking her. I felt that she would be happy here, though - she's an artist and appreciates fine design.

The development was the brainchild of a designer called Lawrence Abbot. It was built by the Apex Society, founded in 1965, to provide "affordable housing in Greater London and the Home Counties".

The apartments were sold off under a scheme that allowed the occupants to purchase 45 per cent of their property, and each applicant had to be accepted onto the scheme under strict qualifying guidelines. By 1981, the rules were relaxed and people were allowed to buy their properties outright and sell them on as they wished.

The development is made up of eight blocks, each containing four apartments. They were originally known as "the upside down houses", as they incorporated an upstairs kitchen and a downstairs sitting room.

Most people here are young and many have connections with the design world - they all share an appreciation of retro style, anyway. There are also still four of the original residents, now at retirement age, who still love it here.

The development has been built from grey brick and white mortar, in homage to a lovely church that stands opposite the site. The mortar is mixed with sparkly quartz, which is good-looking but a nightmare to replicate when repairs are needed. In plan, each block is a square, divided by a kind of flattened S-shaped wall which produces an interesting internal curved wall for each apartment, ending with a curved window where it meets the outside wall.

The lounge is about 18ft square, and shares the ground floor with a downstairs loo and the utility room - very modern. Upstairs is the galleried kitchen which takes up about three-quarters of the floor space of downstairs - originally the kitchen was smaller, but ours had been extended over the lounge before we bought it.

Although originally the development had an integral warm-air heating system, this has been replaced by radiators, as each apartment is privately owned. Old Lawrie Abbot passionately disliked radiators and guttering, presumably because they distracted from the sublime lines and shapes that he had created.

The guttering is hidden within the fabric of the walls. This is quite odd, because you can hear the water rushing down inside your walls during a rainstorm. All the main services run up through the centre of each building too, which is confusing to the average plumber and does cause maintenance problems.

I had been collecting vintage furniture and homewares from the 1950s onwards for about 15 years, until I reached the point where I had to start selling some of it. I thought about selling from a stall at Camden Passage, but they wanted £1,000 a week for the site, so I set up my website as a cheaper alternative, and it's taken off like a rocket. I buy the majority of my stuff from car boot sales and do the antique fair circuits, too.

My ideal interior scheme is a space-age look, and most of the walls we have painted white. Our collection of white fibreglass furniture is scattered through the house, including the chairs in the lounge. I bought a beautiful red sphere chair on a pedestal that also stands in here, an eBay buy that I'm very pleased with.

The cerise-pink sofa is from John Lewis, so I do buy in an orthodox fashion, too. The wall panels are Ikea, inspired by Werner Panton. A treasured possession is our 1966 Artemide light made from twisted Perspex, standing about 3ft high. I also have a lovely Italian arc light that I found at Ardingly antiques fair. I bought it at a good price and have been offered a huge amount for it since, but Tracy won't let me sell it, so here it stays.

The drinks bar is also special, made from a smoked Perspex sphere on wheels with a lift-off lid. We found it in Brighton, and spent every penny of our savings on it. I know little about it, except that it was used on the set for a 1960s television programme, possibly The Avengers, which is cool.

Our dining room furniture was found in the local paper. It was made by Arkana in the late 1960s, a white pedestal table and swivel chairs made from fibreglass on a painted aluminium base, and the chairs have purple cushions, for added comfort.

Our greatest car boot success must be our complete set of original Hornsey crockery, circa 1972. We found three boxes of it and had to disguise our excitement (something that you get good at in this business).

The same thing happened with the Artimide floor light. The guy who was selling it said that he couldn't let it go for less than £15. These are very, very rare, and I knew that the last one I'd seen sold went for about £500. I paid up and scurried off, dry-mouthed, with my bargain.

Phillip Brown's website is www.design20c.co.uk.

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