Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Going Full Circle; Four Years Ago a Magnificent Art Deco House Nicknamed the "Big Round Cheese" Lay in Ruins. Fay Sweet Discovers a Home Restored to Its Former Glory

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Going Full Circle; Four Years Ago a Magnificent Art Deco House Nicknamed the "Big Round Cheese" Lay in Ruins. Fay Sweet Discovers a Home Restored to Its Former Glory

Article excerpt

Byline: FAY SWEET

ONE of Britain's most extraordinary 20th century houses has been brought back from the brink. Four years ago, St Ann's Court in Chertsey, Surrey, was a leaking, crumbling, paint-peeling pile of sadness. Then new owners came along to breathe life back into the place, rekindle its Modernist spirit and restore the house to look as glamorous as it did when it was built a little more than 60 years ago.

Sitting on top of a hill surrounded by amazing gardens, the house is a startling white Art Deco drum. It was one of the last great houses to be built before the Second World War and was the one true masterpiece of its architect, Raymond McGrath.

He described the design as "my most ambitious piece of domestic architecture in England, looking like a big round cheese with a slice cut out of it facing south for the sunlight to enter."

Its prominent hilltop position is unusual and was made possible by demolishing the old house on the site. This was modern architecture at its most courageous, sweeping away the old to make way for a dazzling successor.

McGrath built the house for G L Schlesinger and his partner, the noted garden designer Christopher Tunnard, who added to the existing 18th century gardens with his own brand of modern design. The whole point of the house was precisely what we all want today: a design that merges inside and outside and which is a great place for entertaining.

However, all this beauty was thoroughly obscured when Sue Broughton and Osman Kent came to view the house. "The garden was utterly neglected and overgrown, the roar of motorway traffic was awful - it's close to the M3 and M25 and that day the wind was in the wrong direction - and inside was decorated with swagged curtains, frilly lamp shades and heavy wallpaper. The whole place looked very sad," recalls Broughton.

But in the days that followed, Broughton and Kent found that they kept talking about St Ann's Court, about the details that they both liked, the views and the gardens. Broughton is an enthusiastic gardener and has plans to restore the gardens and open them to the public in four or five years' time.

The house, having been previously owned by a rock musician, came with a recording studio, which was another draw for Kent, as when he's not flying around the world as a computing consultant, his passion is music.

After a nail-biting bidding race, the couple secured the deal and appointed architectural practice Munkenbeck and Marshall (020 7739 3300), known for its designs of the Gainsborough Studios development in Islington and the refurbishment of the Keeling House tower in Bethnal Green.

"Our job was to peel back the layers and reveal what was left of the 1937 house," explains Stephen Marshall.

He says that to complicated matters, the property was Grade II listed. …

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