26 September 2013

The Stanley Picker House and Collection

The Stanley Picker House and Collection was open for free as part of Kingston Heritage Open Days 2013 but that was not convenient for me so I paid £10 to see it a few days later.

The house is on the private Warren Estate and the approach is rather unassuming. The reason for this became clear once I got inside - the house sits on the side of a hill and the main rooms are on the far side facing the garden that slopes away from it.

I had a little idea of what to expect as our guide for the afternoon, Dr Fiona Fisher, had given a talk on the architect Kenneth Wood last year and the house quickly exceeded those expectations.

The slope makes the layout of the house unusual. On the ground floor, as measured from the front door,  there is a reception hall and leading off this there is a good sized guest bedroom with views over the garden (somewhat spoiled by also looking over the flat roof of the floor below) and a landing area with stairs down to the main floor and a large reading/study area.

The lower floor is the centrepiece of the house and takes full advantage of the slope to make a high living space.

The sitting area has glass walls on to the garden on two sides. There is a dining area in the opposite corner under the landing area and a kitchen hidden behind a wall between the two.

There is a separate staff block off to the side (the current curators live there) and the kitchen was part of their domain.

There are two bedrooms on this level too, also overlooking the garden.

Most of the furnishings and art in the house are original and were chosen by Picker. This includes art works by Chagall and furniture by Conran. It is all rather lovely.

Outside, in what was one the garden for the staff flat, is a circular gallery built to hold Picker's expanding collection once he ran our of room in the main house.

The sculpture on the top floor was not much to my taste, and seemed to feature a lot of naked men (Picker was gay) but I liked a lot of the paintings in the lower gallery that is untouched by sunlight. There were works by Lowry and some others that I had heard of.

The garden is quite separate from the house in that there are lots of windows that let you see the garden from the house but not many doors that let you walk out in to it.

The slope continues and this is exploited to make a water feature that starts on the terrace and runs down one side of the garden where it disappears in to a small clutch of trees. The lawn in the centre of the garden is home to a few more sculptures.

The house works in two ways. Kenneth Wood's design makes good use of the shape and slope of the plot to produce a house with some stunning rooms and the Stanley Picker collection inside exploits those spaces to show off stylish furnishings and some fine art.

The only downside is that photography is forbidden so the only pictures that I can share are the few that I found on the internet. However, there are lots of good pictures in the book.

It was a treat to find a house as interesting as this almost on my doorstep and one visit was not enough to appreciate everything about it so I hope to be going there again sometime.

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