Private house. 1966-7 to the designs of Tom Kay. Structural engineer Hubert Heller.
Reason for Listing
No. 23 Kensington Place is listed at Grade II for the following principal reason:
* Architectural quality: built for a photographer and his opera singer wife, to a difficult brief that required a music studio with a grand piano on a very narrow site; the result is tough yet elegant, slightly reminiscent of Dutch Expressionism and wholly of its time.
The house was designed by the architect Tom Kay (1935-2007) for the photographer Christopher Bailey and his wife, the opera singer Angela Hickey. The brief included provision for a singing practice studio. It replaced a derelict house of c1840, which Kay was initially invited by Christopher Bailey to remodel in 1964. A review in The Times (21 September 1967) described it as 'bold and assertive, straightforward and unadorned, a genuine product of its age, as its neighbours are of theirs'.
MATERIALS: load bearing walls, steps and ramp of brick with Staffordshire blue brick facings. Timber is varnished British Columbian pine. Reinforced concrete floor slab at first-floor level, and stair of pre-cast concrete units. Windows are double-glazed throughout, except for the glass dome above the stair tower. Flat roof.
PLAN: four-storeys stacked on a narrow site at the end of a terrace. A spiral staircase running through all floors extends beyond the building line on Hillgate Street, maximising room space, and emerges above the roof level to give access on to the roof terrace. The basement houses the dining room, with spare bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and utility room opening from it. The kitchen leads directly to the sunken garden on the rear (north) side of the house. The entrance, along with two further bedrooms and a bathroom, is on the ground floor, raised slightly above street level; to the north is the garage. The first floor is an open-plan double-height living room with access to a small terrace above the garage. A gallery with study stretches diagonally across the living room at its north end. A split-level roof terrace is above.
EXTERIOR: the house occupies a corner site at the junction of Kensington Place and Hillgate Street. The Kensington Place elevation is narrow (13' 6" wide), and is blank except for a vertical strip of windows where the house adjoins the neighbouring terrace. The entrance, in Hillgate Street to the west, is reached via a short ramp. This elevation is dominated by the cylindrical form of the stair tower, balanced by the tall narrow first-floor window on the right and the lower projecting bulk of the garage to the left. An external staircase between the house and garage leads down to the kitchen and basement garden. On the north side, a glazed roof slopes down from the upper terrace to the sliding doors that open onto the lower terrace atop the garage roof.
INTERIOR: internal walls are fair-faced Staffordshire blue brick, except for the party wall which is plastered. Internal partitions are of varnished beech ply. The double-height living room is the principal space, floored in blue brick and lit by two narrow windows, also double-height, designed to ensure privacy. (The fireplace here is a later addition.) A proportion of the original fitted furniture remains, including cupboards and a dumb-waiter that runs from basement to first floor. Some alterations have been made to the layout of the lower two floors, and the kitchen and bathroom have been refitted.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.