Something very special is up for sale. This stunning 1960s Jack Bonnington Ferrum House in Harpenden, Hertfordshire.
If you were to imagine the future in the mid-1960s, this is pretty much what you would have pictured. Forward-thinking, almost futuristic architecture with light and space aplenty.
Sadly, this vision never quite made it to the mass market and examples of the past are rare and inevitably, quite pricey too. I’ll come to that in a moment. But first, let us all appreciate this grade II-listed house in all its period glory.
Barely changed since the year it was constructed (1964), the design is all about attention to detail and what the architect described as the ‘elimination of superfluous detail’, taking inspiration from the work of Mies van der Rohe on that front.
Talking of detail, it took ‘more than six years of weekends’ searching through southern England to find the perfect plot for this house. That should tell you everything you want to know about the mindset behind the man responsible for constructing this house.
As I said, grade II-listed and rightly featured in the Twentieth Century Society compilation of The Best 100 Houses. If you have a vintage copy, you’ll also find it featured prominently in the House and Garden Book of Modern Houses too.
So a house with pedigree and unusually for a house of this period, immaculate in its period detail. The architecture itself is untouched, which is always key. But the interior too is also immaculate.
Not just the obvious details. You would expect the full-height glazing, the wood panelling and the exposed brick to still bone in place. No, it’s the little things that are still here too.
Scroll down the page and you can see the original recessed HiFi still in place, with speakers built into the panelling. Or check out the heating units, the staircase, the flooring, even the light switches and the paperbacks on the shelves.
I could wax lyrical about the design within too, but, as ever, that’s unlikely to stay. Suffice to say the interior design is every bit as beautiful as the house and equally appropriate.
Have there been any updates? I’m sure there have as the house looks immaculate and when a house is almost 60 years old, that’s not by accident. But I’m not seeing too many, probably confined to practical upgrades like new kitchen appliances, for example. Nothing more substantial than that.
As the architect himself said: ‘If I could go back to 1964, when this was completed, I would not alter a thing’. And he hasn’t changed anything since. This is the first time it has been on the market.
Talking of the design, this was one of the first examples of a steel-framed house in England, covering something like 3,200 sq. ft. over those two, heavily-glazed levels.
Bonnington finally found his dream spot for the house in what’s described as ‘a tranquil, wooded patch’ in the grounds of a country manor in Harpenden. It is set back behind an ‘enchanting ivy-strewn lawn and mature trees’, not far from the centre of Harpenden and the golf course and the Common.
The design is rectangular and based on a strict three-foot module. The fair-coloured bricks, contrasting with the darkness of the surrounding trees, are nine inches in length and the steel members are all measured to a multiple of three if you like your technical details.
You approach the house via a brick-paved driveway, with the garage to the right of the house. That house is mainly brick on the lower level, with a steel-framed, cedar-clad upper section.
The upper space cantilevers above the Portland stone walkway, with an underside of Colombian pine, past two large sections of glazing. The second glazed section is your entry to the ground-floor hall, which hosts that amazing steel and timber open-tread staircase. I do love an open staircase.
The upper level is mainly an open-plan living space. According to the agent, Swedish mosaic glass lines the floor and ‘remains in near-perfect condition’. The ceilings and walls feature Sitka spruce, with sliding doors of teak breaking up the space.
The kitchen, breakfast bar and dining room occupy the landing space with a ‘sweeping wall’ of glazing that extending into the large living room beyond. That’s where you will also find that original built-in HiFi.
Beyond that, you’ll find four bedrooms in total, with a study on the first floor and a further garden room on the ground level. The three first-floor bedrooms are almost nestled amongst the trees and the ground-floor bedroom and its living space are at one with the greenery garden. Storage aplenty too, thanks to the long linking corridors and the built-in wardrobes.
As I hinted at above, the gardens and outdoor space are key to this design and a statement in their own right. Designed to be low maintenance, a Portland stone terrace surrounds the house and lawns are located front and back, along with mature trees. That garage I mentioned too, plus a look feature you might have noticed to the side.
Yes, I am in love with the 1960s Jack Bonnington Ferrum House in Harpenden, Hertfordshire. It has just been reduced too, although it will still require something in the region of £2,250,000 to make it yours.
Images and details courtesy of The Modern House. For more details and to make an enquiry, please visit the website.