The House of Rust and Light

Home to the Lucas family, Kew House in leafy Richmond is clean yet tactile, with earthy colours aplenty. Prior to opening for the day on Sunday as part of the Open House London architecture festival, Folk takes a gander round the house and talks autumnal architecture, weathered iron and dawn light with the owner Tim Lucas.

‘It’s a house of rust and light,’ Tim says. Steeply-pitched gabled steel shells form the backbone of the house, connected by a glass walkway behind the original Victorian stable wall. Seen from the street, it stops you in your tracks, but perhaps thanks to the pared-back, organic materials, the Noah’s Ark-like building really does sit quietly in its surroundings.

The steel shells arrived on site a gleaming silver, and were left out for the London rain to rust them ‘We want them to continue to weather in the coming years,’ says Tim, who wears the achievement of this fairly extraordinary project lightly. This means the deep ochre will continue to naturally darken, a contrast to the sunlight which dapples through the laser-cut steel.

The interior has a pared-back palette of whitewashed walls and palest oak veneer ply cupboards that offset the russet steel and raw brickwork. The exposed staircase was originally going to be clad in wood, until Tony Chapman, head of the revered RIBA Awards, visited while works were in progress. ‘He assumed it was meant to be left visible, and eventually it sort of stuck,’ Tim tells us.

Kew House is also home to some choice artwork: a wedding present painting by Wolfgang Buttress - his acclaimed Hive structure is currently up in Kew Gardens - who is a friend. There is also an unofficial piece by British sculptor Richard Wilson: ‘A scribble he made of Slipstream on a table cloth when he came to our 40th.’ 

‘Jo and I like buildings that use materials meaningfully,’ Tim muses. ‘And that use light and materials in a clever way.’ Clever and meaningful, for sure – but what strikes me most is the modesty about the whole, grand, rusty, modern project: the many hands that have made such luminous work out of the hardest wearing of materials. Come Sunday, do go visit! And don’t forget some change – the very sweet Lucas daughters will be serving up Nespresso cappuccinos for 50p a pop from their DIY café in the basement.

Words: Charlotte Brook
Architect: Piercy&Company
Photography: Jack Hobhouse