80 year old Eltham Palace features contemporary elements used by Lees Associates today!

Posted on January 17th 2017

All photos credited to English Heritage.

Eltham Palace was the home of Steven and Virginia Courtauld, designed by Architects Seely and Paget and built between 1933 and 1936. Constructed on the site of a former medieval royal palace, the Courtauld’s purchased the land which included one remaining medieval structure – the Great Hall built for Edward IV as a grand entertainment space, which at the time was being used as a lowly barn.

Image source - English Heritage.

Seely and Paget designed an ultra-contemporary home for the Courtauld’s which featured all mod-cons. The butterfly plan incorporated the great hall on one wing and the…

house is so big that most of the second wing is for staff and back-of-house utilities. The main living and guest spaces are towards the centre of the plan, built around a feature entrance hall designed in the deco style by Swedish Architect Rolf Engströmer. This triangular hall boasts curved black bean veneer walls, and is filled with light from an enormous lantern overhead which is formed from thousands of circular glass panes.

Image credit - English Heritage

What is most striking about this home is the number of contemporary elements and designs which Lees Associates and many designers still incorporate into our work today. At the time these ideas were new and novel, but today they still remain very relevant.

The original great hall was refurbished and fitted with under-floor heating, a fantastic way to efficiently heat an enormous space all year round; and give a luxurious feeling under foot. It goes without saying that this is must have for the large new homes built in England’s temperate climate today.

Great Hall roof structure. Image credit - English Heritage

All the bedrooms have bespoke built-in furniture, more suited to a cruise liner at the time but now an essential element of any luxury home. The guest bedrooms feature bespoke en-suite bathrooms accessed through hidden jib doors built into decorative veneered walls, each built in a different style to entertain the guests. En-suites remain a fundamental feature in terms of adding value to property at any end of the market.

At the high end designers still enjoy the challenge of hiding bathrooms through super discreet jib doors within decorative glass, polished plaster, flush wall papers, veneers or richly embellished joinery. Designing how doors disappear into ever more complicated materials is a challenge Lees work with on a daily basis, and enjoy!

The Courtauld’s unusually had separate bedrooms, but each featured their own en-suite designed to reflect their tastes and style. Virginia’s bathroom featured onyx clad walls and an onyx clad bath with a golden mosaic back-drop. Onyx is a material still very fashionable and popular today, Lees are using it in volume on our St Petersburg Penthouse scheme, currently under construction.

Virginia Courtauld's bathroom. Image credit - English Heritage.

In the basement Eltham has plant rooms to run the vast home, but it also has a photo developing studio, billiards and a games room which doubled up as an air raid shelter during the war. This seems quite modest technologically, but its modern counterpart is still in-vogue when you consider the desire for basements housing pools, gyms, games rooms and of course the home cinema. Indeed, after an evening dinner, Steven Courtauld used to entertain his guests by showing a screening of his latest film productions… this must have felt incredibly modern.

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