Though we ended up buying another house, the keenly-priced mid century end-of-terrace that we looked at in 2017 in the Norman Starrett-designed Hyndewood estate in Forest Hill was one of my favourites from our property search (see entry from 2017 below).
Three years on, another house in the same estate came onto the market briefly via The Modern House and a very stylish example it was too.
While it didn’t have the extension on the side like the one we saw in 2017 and therefore didn’t have the second reception room and bathroom (this one must have been mid-terrace), it was in much better condition, having been preserved and sympathetically renovated. At £635k, however, it was quite a bit more expensive than the one we saw in 2017.
With its understated palette of white, cork and natural wood (the top floor bedroom still had its original ply-panelled vaulted ceiling), it had an unmistakably mid-century modern aesthetic that looked up-to-date rather than a pastiche. I particularly liked the black 1960s cabinetry and glass serving hatch in the kitchen and the outdoor courtyard that the kitchen led out into.
The speed with which this house was snapped up (it came onto the market as part of that rush of properties last month when the estate agents opened again and was under offer within days) goes to show the continued demand for houses in London with this sort of aesthetic/layout in this price bracket.
6 May 2017
Hyndewood, Forest Hill, SE23
Mid-century extended end of terrace house
Architect: Norman Starrett
Year built: 1950s-1960s
Due to a happy change of circumstances, I’ve changed the focus of my longstanding property search from a modernist property for one to a modernist property for two.
I’ve always quite liked Forest Hill as an area – it’s commutable into the city, it has nice green spaces (including the Horniman Museum gardens with that fantastic view across to the city and Dawsons Heights), the amenities are decent with a nice mix of pointless artisan and essential shops and most importantly, it has a fair amount of nice mid century modern housing stock, including one of those Austin Vernon and partners blocks that I went to see last year and rows of less well known but still interesting-looking terraced houses.
This house was at the end of a Norman Starrett-designed terrace down a very quiet little close containing a cluster of mid century houses and flats. It looked enormous from the floorplan due to a ground floor extension on the side of the house and appeared to have retained a lot of original 1960s features, including a very stylised kitchen and a lot of wood panelling.
In person, the house was even perhaps bigger than I was expecting it to be. The amount of floor space on the ground floor alone was probably bigger than a lot of two bedroom flats in London that I’ve seen, containing two adjoining reception rooms (both with original parquet flooring), that very retro kitchen, a utility room and a downstairs bathroom. Patio doors led out onto a small paved garden.
Upstairs were three bedrooms (two double, one single) and a further bathroom (this one with a very period avocado suite) and another bedroom up a further flight of stairs at the top of the house.
The seller was an elderly lady who had lived in the flat for over thirty years and while she clearly hadn’t updated anything during that period, she had maintained everything pretty well, which meant that the house was a nicely preserved time capsule. With a small amount of cosmetic updating (repainting the walls, replacing the carpets upstairs and probably that avocado bathroom) and a bit of good mid century furniture, the house would have been absolutely beautiful.
The house was also quite keenly priced at £600k, a decision on the seller and agent’s part to get as many offers as possible (most likely over the asking price), allowing for the property to be sold as soon as possible. We didn’t end up putting in an offer as the timing wasn’t quite right (and we had a fair amount of competition from other buyers) but this house will certainly serve as a benchmark for the purposes of our property search going forward.
Updated 5 May 2019
One year after moaning about how those funny looking “courtyard” houses with pointy roofs on Walkerscroft Mead never come up for sale, two were recently listed in quick succession.
The first one was mysteriously listed by the agent without any photos of the interior and at a suspiciously low price for a three bedroomed detached house in West Dulwich (£650k). Despite the fact that the combination of these factors suggested that the house was an absolute hot mess inside and we’d just bought another house nearby, I was sorely tempted to arrange a viewing just to have a nose around (I’d already invented a story in my head about our circumstances) but it was sold after only a few days on the market.
The second house looks familiar – I’m sure I’ve seen photos of the overly modernised interior before. While it looks the same as all of the other houses of its type from the outside (thanks to the stringent rules imposed by the Dulwich Estate in relation to external alterations), it appears to have been extended and carved up beyond recognition on the inside – it barely looks like the same house when you compare its floorplan with that of the first house, which retained the original layout. Just to highlight how much of a steal the first house was, the second house was listed at £795k and is still on the market.
8 July 2018
Walkerscroft Mead, Dulwich SE23
1960s terraced house on the Whytefield Estate
Architect: Austin Vernon and Partners
Year built: 1961-1967
We were impressed by West Dulwich as an area when we went to see Ling’s Coppice so we were keen to see a house that had come up for sale in Walkerscroft Mead, another Austin Vernon and Partners-designed estate nearby.
Walkerscroft Mead forms part of the wider Whytefield Estate, which also includes Pymers Mead, Perifield, Cokers Lane and Coney Acre and was built between 1961 and 1967. At 7.5 acres, it is one of the largest of the early 1960s Dulwich Estate development sites and contains a number of different property types: mews townhouses and maisonettes, single-storey bungalows and detached “courtyard” houses with unusual pointy roofs.
The house we viewed was a part of a terrace of mews townhouses and maisonettes which backed onto a central garden court. The house comprised on the ground floor, a garage, utility room, entrance hall and bedroom/study leading out into a small walled garden (which then led out into the rather beautiful communal gardens), and on the first floor, approached by a semi-circular staircase, a large living room across the front of the house, a dining room and kitchen at the back, and on the second floor, three bedrooms and a bathroom.
It was really quite a spacious townhouse albeit one with a lot of redundant space, a prime example being the entirety of the ground floor which had a practically unusable layout (though we were told that other people knocked through the garage, study and utility room into an enormous kitchen diner, which would be a far better configuration especially given the relatively small kitchen on the first floor). The house also needed a new central heating system (as it featured a dreaded 1960s hot air heating system) and general cosmetic updating throughout.
I liked the house and thought it compared favourably to similar townhouses we’d seen (that slightly dilapidated one in Southfields with the hole in the ceiling sprang to mind) but I didn’t think it was architecturally interesting enough to invest time and funds into doing the renovations required to make it our home. The lack of really distinct architectural features was emphasised by the other, far more striking housing types on the (beautifully maintained) estate, namely the bungalows and the detached “courtyard” houses with pointy roofs – I’d much rather have been looking around one of those.
Great Brownings, Dulwich SE21
Scandinavian-style mid-century estate surrounded by woodland
Architect: Austin Vernon and Partners
Year built: 1966
After years of looking for a mid-century property in the right location, at the right price, on the right estate and with the right number of original features intact, we finally found a house that fulfilled most of these criteria in Great Brownings.
Resembling something out of a Scandinavian fairytale, Great Brownings is a rather unusual estate of gingerbread-looking houses integrated into the steep slopes of the Dulwich Woods.
The estate was designed by Austin Vernon and Partners in 1966 and was built across tiered levels, connected by brick and stone staircases and walkways carved into the natural landscape. Unlike the buildings in the more conventional Austin Vernon and Partners-designed estates nearby (such as Lings Coppice, Walkerscroft Mead and Giles Coppice), the Great Brownings houses were built with timber frames because the steep slopes of the land prevented easy access for normal heavy building materials.
Properties on the estate range from two-bedroom apartments over the garages to four-bedroom detached houses, all built in a consistent style with white cladding, either terracotta or grey slate tile and either pitched or sloping roofs.
The house that we ended up buying is one of the grey slate tiled four-bedroom houses. As far as we’re aware, all of the four-bedroom houses originally had the same layout with the main entrance at the side of the house opening into a double height hallway which branches off into the living room opening out onto the rear garden on the right hand side and the dining room and kitchen opening out onto the front garden on the left hand side. A timber open tread staircase leads up to the upstairs landing overlooking the double height void and branches off into four bedrooms (two double (one with en-suite), two single) and family bathroom.
Although it was apparent that the house needed quite a bit of work and we were a bit nervous about the non-traditional timber frame construction (which thankfully didn’t end up being a problem for our mortgage lender), we fell for both the house and the estate almost immediately. The tranquil, wooded setting was something we’d never have expected to find 15 minutes away from central London and the style and layout of the house (large windows, quadruple aspect, double height hallway/void, patio doors on both sides of the house, lots of timber) were unlike anything else we’d seen during our search.
Two of our neighbours were kind enough to let us have a look around their beautifully renovated homes, which gave us an idea of the potential of these houses.
Both houses provided us with plenty of inspiration for what we’re going to do to ours, including knocking through the existing separate kitchen and dining room, redoing the floors in something resembling the original hardwood floorboards, fitting vertical blinds and reinstating the original timber porch. Although neither of our neighbours opted to do so (and their houses look tidier as a result), we will also be replacing the hot air heating system with a traditional wet heating system with radiators due to the fact that I am a chronically dry individual.
Clearly, we have some way to go before our house resembles either of these stunners but what we do have are a plan, spreadsheet, a list of the names of some tradespeople and a healthy amount of self delusion as to the probably gargantuan size of the task ahead. I plan to document the renovation process over the coming months, most likely starting with the kitchen.
Peckarmans Wood, Dulwich SE26
Midcentury town house
Architect: Austin Vernon and Partners
Year built: 1960s
I mainly associate Peckarmans Wood near Sydenham Hill with those amazing ranch-style houses with pitched roofs built by Austin Vernon and Partners in the 1960s. Forming part of the same development, this house that we went to see recently didn’t have quite the same wow-factor but was nevertheless architecturally interesting and a bit different to your usual mid-century terrace. It also shared the same wooded setting (quite literally, the walk from the station to the terrace of houses was through some kind of wood).
While the house wasn’t in the best condition and hadn’t been presented in the best way for the viewing, it was pretty substantial in terms of size and unusual in the way it was split over four floors. Upon entry, you had a cloakroom and storeroom. A short flight of stairs went up to the kitchen and dining room, which opened out onto the garden. A further short flight of stairs led up to the living room. Another short flight of stairs led up to one of the bedrooms and the bathroom and the final flight of stairs led up to three further bedrooms, which appeared to have pitched roofs and there was also some kind of skylight in the hallway.
With quite a lot of investment, this could have been a spectacular house. Looking down the terrace of houses, it was clear that a couple of the others had been restored to their full potential and the setting was absolutely beautiful. At the time of writing, the house is still on the market, having been recently reduced.
Grassmount, Forest Hill SE23
Midcentury town house
Architect: Unknown to me
Year built: 1960s
The fact that this house was in a development called “Grassmount” accessed by a road called “Taymount Rise” coupled with its listing which boasted of “views across London” should have prepared me for the very steep hill that it was necessary to climb in order to reach the front door. Unfortunately, there are few activities that I dislike more than climbing steep hills or staircases so I’d pretty much decided that this house was a no before we’d even been inside.
This was a shame because the house was beautiful. For a 1960s mid century townhouse, it was unusually wide and substantial with an open plan kitchen/diner and small living room on the ground floor and two bedrooms and a bathroom on each of the first and second floors.
The front garden and at the rear were beautifully landscaped and kept and the decor was as exactly I’d have had it if I had the confidence to go for such a rich, dark colour palette. Appliances and things like the windows and patio doors looked expensive and satisfyingly chunky.
The only change I’d have made would be to convert one of the first floor bedrooms back into the main living room by removing a partition wall and use the small living room on the ground floor as a study. But that would literally have been it – everything down to the cork flooring to the colour of the front door was perfect.
The perfection of the house was reflected in the relatively high price, which seemed fair enough for a substantial house with a decent amount of space that had undergone a great renovation job. I had to remind myself of that steep hill to stop myself from being tempted.
Ling’s Coppice, Dulwich SE23
1960s terraced house with atrium
Architect: Austin Vernon and Partners
Year built: 1968
We didn’t end up making an offer on that beautifully renovated but expensive house in Ling’s Coppice but we liked the development enough to come back to view this slightly less striking but cheaper example.
This was fundamentally the same house as the one we saw last time except this one had the original layout (unconverted garage, kitchen and living room accessed by separate doors, 4 bedrooms with a small bathroom upstairs) intact. Unfortunately, the original warm air heating system was intact as well.
Decor wise, the house was relatively neutral if a bit bland with all of the mid century features that characterise these houses slightly camouflaged under layers of off-white paint, beige carpets and 80s/90s-looking additions and renovations.
The asking price was pretty fair – it wouldn’t have taken too much work to restore the house to its best – but we saw another property on the same day which turned our heads (more on that soon). As far as I’m aware, the house is still on the market.
Ling’s Coppice, Dulwich SE23
1960s terraced house with atrium
Architect: Austin Vernon and Partners
Year built: 1968
I’ve always admired Ling’s Coppice, a neat-looking 1960s housing estate in Dulwich made up of two-storey terraced houses notable for having double-height atrium-style dining areas (leading to them being locally referred to as “the atrium houses”).
Forming part of the Dulwich Estate, the houses were built in 1968 by Austin Vernon and Partners in U-shaped terraces with gardens that opened onto communal landscaped amenity areas. Though a little outside of the price range we had originally envisioned, we decided to take a look at a particularly nice example of a house on the estate that had recently been reduced in price.
Though I’d passed Ling’s Coppice many times on the bus, I’d never had the opportunity to have a wander around the estate properly. It was as nice as I’d expected – rows of immaculately kept houses and neatly trimmed retro-looking shrubs.
The interior of the house that we viewed was, in short, spectacular. The entrance hall led straight into the double height dining area, which was flooded with light from a large square skylight overhead and overlooked by an upper-floor gallery. This led through to a living area, which opened out onto a small but well tended garden, and an open sided staircase. The current owners had converted the garage into a storage room and a substantial utility room (in my view, the ultimate indulgence).
The upstairs was no less attractive, the upstairs gallery looking out over the dining area and branching off into two bedrooms on one side and a further bedroom and the bathroom on the other (the original layout had four bedrooms and a small bathroom but the current owners had traded the fourth, smallest bedroom for a more substantial bathroom, a worthy trade-off in my opinion).
I was quite taken with this house, far more so than with any of the other properties I’d seen as part of my long running search (the only other property having the same effect on me was an Austin Vernon and Partners flat that I tried to buy about two years ago). This, however, was reflected in the price of the house, which I’m sure would be enough to buy a small mansion in Sutton.
We haven’t ruled out this house but have decided to keep looking at properties at the same price point to see what we can get if we are willing to stretch our budget to the absolute maximum.
We started looking in earnest for a mid century house this year with a £600-700k budget and a south London location in mind. Here’s a roundup of the houses that we’ve seen (and haven’t bought) to date:
Victoria Drive, Southfields
This sixties 3-bed end of terrace in Southfields looked promising from the photos – I liked the fact it had two adjoining reception rooms (the second one the result of an extension) and saw the pine panelled ceiling throughout the whole of the ground floor of the house as a selling point rather than an eyesore.
Visiting the house in person, however, I wasn’t entirely sure about it. The £650k asking price was ok but we’d seen bigger places for the same price. The last time I checked, the house was still on the market and had been reduced to £625k.
Topsham Road, Tooting
This sixties 3-bed semi was extremely incongruous on a street of Victorian-era terraced houses near Tooting Bec underground station. I quite liked it from the outside, it was conveniently located and was very reasonably priced at around £640k but it was a bit dark and characterless inside and I felt too overwhelmed by the amount of work that would be needed to get it into a decent state. This clearly didn’t put off another buyer who bought it two days after our viewing.
Kay Road, Clapham
I suspected that this ultramodern house sandwiched between two Victorian properties on the Clapham/Stockwell border would be a bit small but went to along see it anyway because I was intrigued by the photos of a timber-cladded living room and Grand Designs-worthy facade.
Built a couple of years ago on a tiny plot of land by the architect owners, the house was full of neat design touches including a lot of (much needed) built-in storage, skylights and unusual uses of materials.
The house had an upside-down layout with two bedrooms and the bathroom on the ground floor and an open plan living area and kitchen on the first floor with a balcony spanning the length of the room. Despite the fact it was all very attractive (with a great view from the balcony of some brutalist towers), there wasn’t an awful lot of house for the £700k asking price.
Reynard Drive, Crystal Palace
Unlike the Kay Road house, this place had an abundance of space. Situated at the end of a row of terraced houses with unusual inverse pitched roofs in a quiet cul de sac near the Crystal Palace Triangle, the house had been extended to the side and had 4/5 bedrooms, a very large lounge, two bathrooms and a nice garden which led directly into woodland.
All in all, while it needed a bit of work and the layout was a little odd owing to the way in which the extension had been tacked onto the side of the house, there was a lot there for the £700k asking price (reduced from £750k) and the number of interested buyers reflected this – there was a practically a queue to get in and it was snapped up the day after we went to see it.
Augustus Road, Southfields
Priced at £650k, this 3-storey sixties (or maybe seventies) townhouse was a little ugly from the outside but had four bedrooms and was in a decent location in Southfields. The fact that a more modernised but otherwise identical house in the same terrace was sold last year for around £100k more made this house seem like excellent value.
Visiting it in person, however, it looked like it would be an £100k project to get it into a decent condition (we’re talking holes in the ceiling), which felt too ambitious given our limited experience renovating houses. The last I heard, the owners were taking it off the market to do some of the work to it themselves, most likely with a view to relisting it at a higher price.
Balham Park Road, Balham
Conveniently located (a few minutes’ walk from Balham tube down the side road next to Du Cane Court), this mid-century end of terrace house was a little boxy from the outside but was nicely proportioned and would have made for a manageable project if we’d gone for it. At £700k, however, it did seem rather expensive for what it was.
Raleigh Court, Crystal Palace SE19
Apartment block forming part of Dulwich Wood Park estate
Architect: Austin Vernon & Partners
Year built: 1959
I wasn’t planning to do a blog entry about this flat that we went to see in Raleigh Court last month (mainly because the photos I took were rubbish and dark) but I noticed the other day that it’d been reduced in price (click here to see the original listing with much better photos!) so thought it was worth a mention.
As I’ve previously mentioned on this blog, I’ve unsuccessfully attempted to buy a flat on this estate on three separate occasions so I’m very familiar with the various issues associated with these flats and how good (and bad) they can look. This particular example wasn’t the best I’d seen but it wasn’t the worst either.
Located on the second floor of Raleigh Court, it wasn’t on a high enough floor for it to have panoramic views but it was bright enough inside (even in the low early evening light) and didn’t face into one of the other blocks. It was relatively neutral decor-wise, retaining the original, open-plan layout that I’ve always liked and the original iroko floor in the main living area. The newish kitchen and bathroom were fine, if not exactly to my taste and the original 1960s hot air heating system that still features in a lot of flats on the estate had been replaced with a modern gas central heating system. The lease, sometimes a problem with flats on this estate, had been recently renewed and was of a decent length (around 120 years).
I thought that the original asking price of £440k wasn’t too bad as I’ve seen flats of this type go for up to £475k on the estate at the height of the market. However, the stagnant property market appears to have caused prices to fall to mid-2015 levels as the seller recently reduced the price to £425k, the same price that a number of similar, slightly worse flats on the estate have gone for in recent months.
Unfortunately, my partner wasn’t quite as enthusiastic about these flats as I am so we didn’t put in an offer but I’d recommend going to see it if you like the estate, especially given the new price.
Exterior photos from The Modern House (because (i) it was getting dark when we had our viewing and (ii) it’s a really difficult building to photograph from the outside.
I couldn’t find a guide like this online so I thought I’d compile my own based on my (so far unsuccessful) property search. Please note:
- I’ve only listed areas that seem to have an unusually high concentration of mid-century housing stock (so I haven’t included areas which feature one big mid-century housing estate if it’s an anomaly for the area)
- This is not a compilation of live listings of properties currently on the market – I’ve just tried to give an idea of the sorts of properties that exist in certain areas and that occasionally come onto the market for sale
- I’ve listed areas that are a commutable distance from central London
- This is by no means an exhaustive list and is just representative of my limited horizons – any further suggestions regarding areas I’ve missed would be very much welcome!
Thanks to the Dulwich Estate, there is an abundance of mid-century apartment blocks and terraced houses designed by Austin Vernon & Partners clustered in an attractive, almost wooded setting near Gipsy Hill station. Flats in the blocks, named after explorers (Drake, Raleigh, Grenville, Marlowe, Knoll, Lowood), are spacious and reasonably priced at around £425k. The houses are more expensive (around £650-750k, depending on size and design). If you’re not fussed about an architecturally significant property, there are a number of reasonably priced mid-century style housing developments and apartment blocks about (see Linley Court).
Things get more expensive towards Dulwich Village. A house in Lings Coppice, a 1960s housing development near East Dulwich station, is about £800k. Though small, the houses are very characterful with a rather special double height/void situation going on in the staircase area. Houses in the Peckarman’s Wood development nearby are possibly even more spectacular but very rarely come up for sale.
The elegant Park Court in nearby Penge is also worth a look. Two bedroom flats go for between £400-425k depending on condition (prices here have remained static for a couple of years).
Highgate is resplendent with beautiful mid-century houses but these are only for people with several million to spend. A flat in one of the numerous mid-century apartment blocks are slightly more affordable – there are quite a few along Shepherds Hill. The nicest flats can be found in Highpoint, which start from around £700k but have a £15k in annual maintenance fee attached.
Archway is home to Stoneleigh Terrace, a renowned designed modernist estate. I’m pretty sure that the construction of these flats means that it’s difficult to take out a mortgage to buy one but when they do come on the market, they’re around £400k for a one bedroom, £525k for a two bedroom split level maisonette and around £700k for the larger house-style properties.
I think I’ve pretty much covered everything that Forest Hill has to offer from a mid-century housing perspective in previous blog entries! There are lots of mid century terraces including some nice Norman Starrett-designed ones (prices range from around 450k for a little two bedroom house to £750k for something more substantial) and a smattering of apartment blocks around the Hyndewood area (£350-375k).
There’s also one of those Austin Vernon & Partners-designed apartment blocks (at £500-525k, the flats in Frobisher Court are a lot more expensive than identical flats in Gipsy Hill and I’m not entirely sure why).
I don’t know much about Chislehurst, an affluent-looking residential area slightly to the south and east than the more popular Blackheath. It does, however, seem to contain a high concentration of attractive mid-century houses, including this incredible Norman Starrett estate (there’s a house currently on the market which looks like a deluxe version of the Norman Starrett houses that we’ve been to see in Forest Hill) and some handsome detached properties. There seems to be less in the way of mid century apartment blocks or estates. Prices for the houses seem to range from £850k to upwards of £1.5million.
I really like what I’ve seen of Ham and would consider moving there if the transport links improved (it’s serviced by buses only with the nearest rail links over a mile away). There’s the large Eric Lyons-designed Parkleys Span estate (around £400-425k for a two bedroom flat) and the even nicer Langham House Close just by the common (around £475k for a two bedroom flat). There are also some nice enough mid-century-style houses at around the £550-£650k mark, which seems like decent value.
An episode of Location Location Location brought Weybridge to my attention as an area with a decent amount of mid-century housing in the form of apartment blocks (including the charmingly ugly Stroudwater Park) and some great houses.
Amongst the best houses are those at Templemere, a rather stunning Eric Lyons-designed housing development (much larger and bolder than the average Span estate). Prices seem quite reasonable for an area that I’ve always associated with being a very pricey commuter town (around £350-400k for a 2 bedroom flat and £600-750k for one of the more modest mid-century houses).
One of the biggest revelations for me during my property search has been this unassuming south east London district next to Croydon. One of the first properties I came across was Blair Court, a rather stunning modernist housing development.
This wasn’t the only property of this type in the area- there appears to be plenty of other developments, one-off houses and unusual apartment blocks, including the outlandishly designed Apex Close. Prices are around £500-750k for a house and around £350-400k for a two bedroom flat.
Blackheath is home to possibly the most centrally located and priciest Eric Lyons-designed Span estate. The estate really is massive and contains multiple apartment blocks and houses in different styles and sizes. The most desirable Span properties are the larger T15 type houses (around £900k) and the flats in the South Row block, on the southern side of the heath overlooking the water (£550k for a two bedroom flat). Aside from Span properties, I’ve come across a number of slightly more nondescript mid-century terraced houses (around £550-650k).
Images sourced from property agent sites (including The Modern House), Modernist Estates, WowHaus and a Google image search