Who lives in a house like this?

One of the joys of National Trust membership is the opportunity to visit interesting and significant places and to find out about their connected people. And whilst I do enjoy palatial mansion houses, wild coastlands, countryside, and castles it can be the quirky and lesser-known places that can prove the most pleasant of surprises. I visited two such houses in London in recent weeks

2 Willow Road is part of a terrace of three houses in Hampstead, London designed by architect and furniture designer Ernő Goldfinger and completed in 1939. It was one of the first Modernist buildings acquired by the Trust, giving rise to some controversy. Goldfinger lived there with his wife Ursula and their children until his death in 1987.  The construction using concrete and a facing of red brick. A number of cottages were demolished to allow for the construction, which was strongly opposed by a number of local residents including novelist Ian Fleming and politician Henry Brooke. Did Fleming’s rage possibly lead to inspiration for the name of the James Bond villain Auric Goldfinger some twenty years later?

It is a wonderful house, giving insight into the life of this unique Hungarian born architect and his Artist wife and family with modernist architecture (controversial concrete even then!), some great and extremely valuable modern art and some interesting and somewhat eccentric bespoke furniture.

I was left thinking a couple of discipleship thoughts. Firstly, how easily we as people and the Christian church use the term ‘Modern’ without a lot of thought and secondly, I wonder what imprint and legacy we leave in the spaces and places that we occupy? What do others see about us?

That leads me neatly to 575 Wandsworth Road, London, home of Kenyan poet and civil servant Khadambi Asalache until his death in 2006 (and pictured here). Following his death he left it to the National Trust, which opened the house as a museum for pre-booked guided tours. Normally the National Trust only accept a property if it comes with money attached but they made an exception in this extraordinary case and raised the funds to take care of it and open it to the public.

Asalache bought the “two-up two-down” Georgian terraced house in 1981, paying less than the asking price of £31,000. The property was in a poor state of repair when he bought it, having previously been occupied by squatters. For 20 years, he intricately decorated the entire interior of the house with Moorish-influenced fretwork which he cut by hand from discarded pine doors and wooden boxes. The woodwork was augmented by illustrations of African wilderness, and his collection of 19th-century metallic glazed pottery known as ‘lustreware’. It is simply amazing, as was the well-informed and passionate guide who was clearly was grateful for her dream job. I had never heard of this man before visiting the house, you might like to look him up!

Lots to think about here but to mention a couple of take-homes for my discipleship. Asalache left instructions that mobile phones or cameras were not to be used by visitors to the house at any point in the future. He wanted us to be present in the in the moment rather than recording it and I am personally grateful for that! Secondly, he left all his pencil marks on the wood after making all the marks and cuts and chose not to rub them out. If one looked carefully, one could see his working as well as quite a few clever hidden design, patterns, and figures. This made me think of my school life back in the day, when it was drummed in to me ‘show your working!’ I really think it is true that the most fruitful Christian discipleship is one that is transparent, showing how it has been worked out bit by bit. We are never the finished article, are we? well I am certainly not! All of it can point to God’s redeeming and transforming work on us and in us (Isaiah 64:8) so let’s not neglect this part of our lived-experience as we journey on with Jesus.

SHARE THIS POST

MORE TO EXPLORE

Blog

Well Played Sam!

I have been thinking recently about how the things we say and do can affect other people in more ways than we often realize or intend. In recent years the word ‘triggering’ has come into

Blog

Who lives in a house like this?

One of the joys of National Trust membership is the opportunity to visit interesting and significant places and to find out about their connected people. And whilst I do enjoy palatial mansion houses, wild coastlands,

Privacy Policy

Website designed by FM Graphics