Last Friday was our annual office summer trip where we spent the day at The Homewood touring the house and grounds. The Homewood, first project and former home of the late modernist architect Patrick Gwynne, is now a National Trust site.
We departed for Esher early in the morning on our Big Lemon coach - something that seems to be becoming an annual tradition! An hour and a half later we arrived at the pickup point: a cafe at Claremont Gardens. Fortunately the weather was holding up rather well considering the thunderstorm that swept through earlier in the week. 20 minutes and a coffee later we boarded the minibus to be shipped to the house grounds.
The drive there was less than half a mile but was a necessary undertaking as The Homewood is restricted to the public; the house only opens for pre-booked tours that take place 1 day a week from April to October. This is because the gated house and grounds are largely taken care of by a tenant family, as well as a group of volunteers. This was one of the conditions that Patrick Gwynne laid out when he bestowed the property to the National Trust in 1999.
Unfortunately photography was not allowed inside, so pictures from a google search will have to do! Everything has been kept exactly how it was left or replaced like for like if needed. Incredibly Gwynne was responsible for all aspects of design: furniture, fittings, even the grounds. Many of the features inside the house were years ahead of its time, such as the sound system that extended to the outdoor kitchen area where you could control the volume. Remarkable for a house originally built in 1938.
Gwynne's fastidious nature resulted in a clutter free interior with many concealed features. Power cables and the like were embedded within table legs and drinks holders and drawers were seamlessly embedded within tables and shelves, out of sight until the occasion arose for some tipple.
After the house tour we were fortunate enough to be introduced to David, the current tenant and housekeeper. As he took us through the outside areas he spoke about the logistics of living there and maintaining the condition of the property - the heating bills alone can be as much as a mortgage and the walk from the laundry basket to the washing machine is a quarter of a mile...
The gardens themselves were just as spectacular as the building, partly due to the sheer overall area and startlingly tall cedar trees, mixed with a variety of other fauna such as Japanese maple and silver birch.
We were free to roam the grounds after the tour, some of us taking the opportunity site down and sketch, some of us exploring the 6 acre (around 5 football pitches) grounds and taking pictures.
After leaving The Homewood we found a lovely spot by a nearby pond to eat our lunches (boxes of deliciousness from Eat Naked) and then made our way to The Ginger Fox for a pint stop before arriving in Brighton.
The trip was a wonderful experience and was a refreshing mix of education, inspiration, and relaxation. We heartily recommend a visit, especially in the summer months when the garden is open for exploration and the sun is (hopefully) out!