The Sugden House – Summer in Suburbia

The Sugden House – Summer in Suburbia

Chosen as the location for our SS18 campaign, The Sugden House sits on the edge of a leafy residential estate in Watford, north-west of central London. Created by architectural duo Alison and Peter Smithson for Derek and Jean Sugden in 1955, it was a rare domestic commission for The Smithsons, whose projects included The Economist HQ in London and Robin Hood Gardens in Tower Hamlets, which was well-known for pioneering the ‘streets in the sky’ model of high-rise living.

With a career that was kick-started after winning a competition in their 20s to build a secondary school in Norfolk, the couple went on to become two of the most influential designers of the post-war period. Internationally regarded for their innovative use of concrete and Columbian pine, they once described their building component choices as a ‘reverence for materials’.

The home has been owned by the Sugden family since its completion – which goes some way to explain why the interior remains in such fantastic condition, with many of the original mid-century features still in place. Created at a time when the open-plan Californian style of house-building was gaining momentum in the UK, the spaces are divided by a clever use of curtains, inset concrete shelving and built-in cupboards. The free-standing brick fireplace and open timber staircase give a subtle nod to the works of Erno Goldfinger and Quincy Jones, and fulfil the Sugden’s stipulation that they wanted ‘a simple house, an ordinary house, but this should not exclude it from being a radical house.’

Deceptively modest from the outside, it was valued for a six-figure sum and listed for sale in 2017. We were delighted to be granted permission by the Sugden family to make full use of the interior for our campaign shots, as well as the mature, landscaped grounds. With every room diffused with soft, warm light from the oversized L-shaped windows, it was surprising to discover that this outstanding example of British brutalism had never been used for a fashion shoot before. Lauded by Historic England for its ‘subtle nuances of design’, its modernist tones and textures were the ideal backdrop for the Begg & Co SS18 colour palette. Architect Peter St. John recently called it “a loving interpretation of the arts and crafts, with 1950s builders details – witty and wonderful.” Protected by a Grade II listing since 2012 it’s a slice of the American dream, hidden at the heart of British suburbia.

The Sugden House is now for sale, for more information click here.

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