If you’ve not heard of it, Open House London is an annual festival where buildings and homes of architectural interest are open to the public to have a browse. Sounds excellent, but it’s actually really difficult to get into any of the buildings! The best ones you have to sign up to weeks in advance online. We failed to do this. However on Sunday we thought we’d chance our arm (s) and hang around outside the iconic Trellick Tower near Portobello Market and see if we could get on a tour anyway.
By a complete stroke of luck, we got squeezed on a tour. But by now my expectations were low. It’s such a striking building from the outside, but when you get close to the building the area around it is very run down and the building itself looked pretty grotty and unloved. Was it worth looking inside?
However, first good sign – our tour guide was sprightly, clever and fun, and in the lift we got, up to the 18th floor. And wow! We were greeted with a pop of bright yellow! There was shining yellow tiling everywhere – all around the lift shaft and up the corridors. It was so cheering and contemporary – it looked amazing. I couldn’t believe the tiles looked so good after over 40 years (Trellick was built in 1972).
Apparently all the other floors have different coloured tiles. The Brutalist architect Goldfinger chose to use these upbeat tiles and a lot of big windows in the corridors to ensure residents got a good burst of light in their flats and would feel uplifted as they walked down the corridors to their homes. Very progressive thinking for social housing in the 70s.
And excitement, we were going to to see two examples of Trellick flats. I love nosing around people’s places, especially if I can steal interior ideas.
First of all we walked into a one bedroom flat (which was as it turned out owned by the tour guide) – it was very compact: small bedroom, small lounge, small kitchen – but it was rather lovely and most importantly the views of London were stunning!
Next up we went into a three bedroom flat, the friendly owner and his enthusiastic fluffy dog greeted us at the top of the stairs. It was an attractive, tasteful flat packed with great vintage furniture and most of the rooms had incredible views.
I was particularly enamoured with the kitchen – and was keen to find out how I could replicate the yellow kitchen cupboards. Cue me bothering the owner who kindly explained how to achieve the look (Ikea cupboards and Farrow and Ball paint if you are interested).
In just half an hour I felt that we’d been transported into another world! It was a very interesting, enjoyable and even better – completely free – tour. We felt privileged that the tour guide and his neighbour so generously gave up their time to let us trample through their homes.