Thursday, 31 May 2012

Miraflores, a stunning 1962 house


I am so jealous of Samantha Benson's house in Rickmansworth. The place is like a time machine back to the 1960s – but not a polished, idealised 2012 recreation of what it could have looked like, but a genuine early sixties family home, very well preserved and visibly loved and lived in. No wonder she hires it out as a location house for period films and TV shows.

Step inside, and meet Samantha, who lives here with her husband Jim, daughters Harriet, 9, Celia, 7, Margo the miniature dachshund (scroll down for her, she's very nice), and Sid and Johnny the guinea pigs... (And do check out the amazing coloured bathrooms: I LOVE them, no wonder Jonathan Adler has just launched a range of colourful basins... this is a look that is coming back, we'll be mourning throwing out those avocado suites, I'm telling you.)




Over to Samantha, to talk you through the house... "The previous owners bought this plot in beautiful woodland on a private estate near Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire. Miraflores was built for them in 1962, with an architect called K Valdmanis. The house name has a lovely history – the previous owners were a BOAC pilot and his wife, a Spanish air stewardess, who first met in the Port of Miraflores. It became a happy family home for them for 50 years until sadly we bought the house probate last year. The house is unusual as it has been virtually untouched since it was built – it retains all the original decor and fittings, and a great deal of original midcentury furniture."


How did you come to live in it? "We had been looking for our "forever house" for almost two years when we stumbled on Miraflores – way above our budget! I fell in love. The agent told us that because of the location and size of the grounds it was sure to be snapped up by developers, who would knock it down to build a footballers-wives' style mansion. It broke my heart – the house was still fully furnished and the love and warmth here was palpable. We were invited to meet the son who was selling the house, and incredibly he and his sister passed over the queue of developers offering big money, in our favour. Their kindness has transformed our lives."






Interesting features? "There is a bank of 15 switches incorporated into the headboard on our bed – they operate ceiling lights and lamps, TV sockets and plug sockets! Every electrician that has visited has taken photos of it to show their mates. Also the industrial size oil-fired boiler which occupies it's own room off the kitchen; the house is heated by warm air vents, there are no radiators. The house was designed so that all the children's bedrooms are exactly the same size – so no-one has to have the smallest room. A brilliant idea."

Favourite features? "Many people would choose the unusually-shaped lounge, but I love small things like its door handles, the wall lights, the way the hall window has a slight curve. I love the peaceful balcony off the master bedroom, and the fact you never need blinds or frosted glass in the bathrooms because it's so secluded. The views from the picture windows are incredible – as if every single window frame holds a work of art. The bathrooms are very cool and I love the coloured suites! The formica wall coverings look so neat and it's very easy to clean.




What's it like to live in? Very comfortable and it must have been quite advanced for the era it was built. The heating, although extremely inefficient, is really effective. Most tradesmen have tried (and failed) to persuade us to install halogen lights in the kitchen and bathrooms, or ceiling lights in the lounge (entirely lit by lamps using 3amp sockets that are operated by the standard wall switch). Ordinarily we would have chosen floor tiles for the bathrooms, or wood for the kitchen, but we found some brilliant vinyl floor tiles that visitors now think are original. We had to remove most of the original kitchen as the wood was warped, rotten and a bit smelly. At the moment we have units from eBay but it may be a real test choosing a kitchen to suit the house.

Where have you been shopping and finding inspiration?

  • Midcentury Magazine is a great read, full of inspiration and very informative. 
  • Wallpaper Direct have the biggest range of wallpaper you could find. For late 1950s/early 1960s, choose geometric patterns or textured papers, like hessian, rather than the large floral patterns of the late 1960s.
  • Berkshire Trade Flooring Supplies in Bracknell is where we got our lovely vinyl floor tiles. Their prices are great and the choice is huge – the tiles are also very easy to lay yourself. Speak to Matthew: on +44 (0) 1344 303439.
  • Wowhaus is a website I'm addicted to: there are inspiring, authentic houses from all eras, but a lot from the 1950s-1970s. It's a real education in appreciating unusual domestic architecture.

Film types: want to hire this house? Find more details on the Film Locations website.

In a few weeks, I'll be posting up a fascinating interview I did with the owner of Film Locations, all about the ins and outs of hiring out your own home as a location for shoots, along with some of the most special properties on her books.


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