41-43 Hay's Mews

Overview

Heritage Category:
Listed Building
Grade:
II
List Entry Number:
1474784
Date first listed:
25-Feb-2021
Statutory Address:
41-43 Hay's Mews, Mayfair, London, W1J 5QA

Map

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Location

Statutory Address:
41-43 Hay's Mews, Mayfair, London, W1J 5QA

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County:
Greater London Authority
District:
City of Westminster (London Borough)
Parish:
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
TQ2868380511

Summary

House, formed of mid-C19 and 1900 mews buildings, remodelled and decorated in about 1954 and 1986 by John Fowler and Renzo Mongiardino respectively.

Reasons for Designation

41-43 Hay’s Mews, a house formed of converted mews houses with interiors of about 1954 and 1986 by John Fowler and Renzo Mongiardino, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest: * for its Fowler interior, an important example of one of his smaller schemes, illustrative of his mature style and known to be a personal favourite, executed for a close friend and repeat client; * for its scheme by Mongiardino, characteristically elaborate in the use of painted decoration and creative in the handling of volume and proportion; it is one of the few English schemes by this internationally successful designer; * for the unexpected juxtaposition of its fine interiors contained within the shell of two understated and outwardly well-preserved London mews houses.

Historic interest: * for its interior schemes, each important as examples of the work of their respective authors and together representative of a particular strand of post-war interior design; * as the creation of committed patron of the arts, Drue Heinz, through her preservation of Fowler’s work and the commissioning of Mongiardino’s

Group value: * with neighbouring listed mews buildings 4, 40, 44, and 45 Hay’s Mews.

History

Hay’s Mews was created as part of the Berkley Estate, laid out for building in about 1745-1750. Forming a T shape, the mews served the houses of Hill Street to the north-west, Charles Street to the south-east, and the houses on the south-west side of Berkley Square to the north-east. 41-43 Hay’s Mews are situated to the rear of numbers 5, 7 and 9 Hill Street (south side). Horwood’s 1792-1799 map of London shows that at this date there was a conventional mews arrangement behind all the houses on the south side of Hill Street; that is, a terrace of houses to the front, gardens behind and a mews to the rear. This arrangement remained until at least the middle of the 1820s, as shown on Greenwoods map, surveyed 1824-1826. However, the first edition of the Ordnance Survey map, published 1875, shows the gardens of 5, 7 and 9 Hill Street infilled by what is now 43 Hay’s Mews, and the mews buildings behind either remodelled, or more likely rebuilt, with the footprint of what is now 41-42 Hay’s Mews.

The 1875 map shows 41-42 and 43 Hay’s Mews comprising two sets of buildings each arranged around a small internal courtyard. The footprint of this arrangement appears broadly to survive at number 43, and its street elevation, although altered, has the character of a C19 building. 41-42 Hay’s Mews was rebuilt in 1900, following a similar footprint to that shown in 1875.

43 HAY’S MEWS was the home of the actress Joan Dennis (1904-1982) from about 1954. The interior scheme was the work of John Fowler of Sibyl Colefax and John Fowler Ltd. Dennis had already commissioned work from Fowler at several of her other homes and the two had become close friends. It is unclear how much remodelling of the interior space at number 43 was undertaken by Fowler, but he is credited with the partial removal of the drawing room ceiling to create the double-height space at the heart of the house, and mouldings and architectural features were added under his direction. Typical of Fowler’s exacting eye, he is reported to have had all the drawing room frieze taken down after execution and put back three inches higher. The walls were painted grey-aquamarine with details picked out in white. These details included plasterwork decoration brought from old Northumberland House (the London residence of the Dukes of Northumberland, demolished in 1876). Strong colours were used throughout in the paints, papers, fabrics and carpets and the canvas-covered walls of the first-floor dining room were hand-painted with a vine and trellis design which continued onto the ceiling.

Fowler decorated many flats and town houses, but Hay’s Mews was a favourite of his, showing many of the features of his mature style, he considered the drawing room to be ‘almost perfect’ (Robinson, 1984, p. 49). The interior was featured in House and Garden magazine in 1956.

The scheme was not long completed when Dennis sold the house to Mrs Drue Heinz and her husband, Henry J Heinz II, CEO of the H J Heinz Company. The Heinzes were so taken with 43 Hay’s Mews, that they bought it with many of the contents in place and these remained in-situ, augmented by an extensive collection of art and antiques, until Mrs Heinz’s death in 2018.

41-42 HAY’S MEWS was bought by the Heinzes in the mid 1980s with the intention of expanding the living accommodation at number 43 into this address, which had then been operating as a car dealership. The exterior was left largely unaltered while the interior was remodelled by the Italian designer Renzo Mongiardino. Mongiardino had redecorated the Heinz’s New York townhouse in 1976, having met them through Gianni and Marella Agnelli.

The centrepiece of Mongiardino’s work at 41-42 Hay’s Mews was a large reception room. Previously used for car storage, the west side of the building was a long and narrow space with a low ceiling, enclosing the courtyard of 43 Hay’s Mews to the south-east, and lit from a skylight to one side. Aside from partitioning off a small kitchen adjacent to the street, Mongiardino kept the space as a single large room, but divided it visually into three areas. At one end there was a fireplace, at the other a curved end wall, and at the centre a large glazed cupola was inserted overhead, requiring the removal of the roof over this part of the building. The existing skylight was removed, ceiled over, and a wide alcove created. The walls were covered in trompe-l’oeil scenes of an abandoned Classical garden; these were painted on canvas by Irene Groudinski in Milan and shipped to London for installation.

The scheme illustrates Mongiardino’s skill for theatre and illusion, as well as his ability to re-cast a difficult, unpromising space through the manipulation of proportions, light and perspective. The room is one of a small number in his oeuvre to use trompe-l’oeil to bring the natural world inside; each of them, the others in Turin and Portofino, was created in collaboration with Groudinski. The inspiration for these schemes was the C17 frescos at Villa Falconieri, Frascati, in which one of the rooms is painted as a wooded grove. However, as Mondiarino said, ‘The light of London is not that of Rome’ (Mongiardino, 2016, p. 203) so at Hay’s Mews he sought to evoke a more typically English landscape, which he studied from life. When his monograph, Roomscapes, was first published in 1993, it was the room at Hay’s Mews which Mogiardino chose for the front cover.

JOHN BERESFORD FOWLER (1906-1977) was one of the most celebrated and influential interior decorators of the C20, renowned for his work in a number of grand country houses and later as adviser to the National Trust. Raised in straitened circumstances, he had to leave school early without the opportunity for professional training. He started his career painting Chinese style wallpapers in a large decorating firm in Soho Square, before running a studio supplying painted furniture to the department store, Peter Jones. Having set up a small, commercially precarious, firm of his own on King’s Road, Chelsea in 1934, his work caught the eye of the established decorator and society figure, Sybil Colefax, Lady Colefax (1874-1950) and Fowler joined her firm in 1938. Fusing elements of European style from the late C17 to early C19, his work tapped into a revival of interest in Georgian architecture and design which had emerged during the 1920s. Fowler had a keen eye for historical detail, which lent his work authenticity, and his handling of colour, pattern and materials brought a freshness which captured the interest of a small circle of wealthy clients, generally drawn from the land-owning classes. Fowler coined his approach ‘humble elegance’, and by the late 1930s he was recognised as one of the country’s leading interior decorators.

Shortly after the war, the firm of Sibyl Colefax and John Fowler Ltd was purchased by American, Nancy Lancaster, who made Fowler a partner. Though not herself a professional decorator, Lancaster had been the driving force behind the redecoration of Kelmarsh, Northamptonshire and Ditchley Park, Oxfordshire and both houses were considered pinnacles of pre-war taste. Lancaster brought with her an extensive network of contacts, introducing Fowler to many fine houses, and wealthy clients, that were to result in big jobs for him. Their relationship was a notoriously turbulent one, but together they codified what became referred to as the English Country House Style. Fowler’s work was highly influential in the UK and across the Atlantic, securing Colefax and Fowler’s place as the foremost English decorating firm of the C20.

LORENZO MONGIARDINO (1916-1998) was a Genoese set designer, architect and interior designer. He designed sets for Italian director and film producer, Franco Zeffirelli, and also worked with the British director Peter Hall. Of equal importance was his work as an interior designer; though he lived in Italy, his clients were drawn from a wealthy transnational elite with houses across Europe and the World. His interiors were often romantic and highly elaborate. Where necessary, he would start with an architectural manipulation of light, proportion and symmetry, before creating rich and often illusory elements of decoration drawn from historical, sometimes fantastical sources. He used the techniques of the stage-set to conjure an array of materials, textures and patterns from comparatively humble materials and paint effects.

While there are considerable differences between the design approach of Fowler and Mongiardino, both shared an essentially romantic and nostalgic outlook, concerned with the aesthetics of the past. It has been commented of Mongiardino that ‘His aesthetic suggested a more theatrical, highly emotional cousin of the “humble elegance” espoused by his English contemporary John Fowler’ (Architectural Digest, Jan 2000, p. 211). Their work represents a particular strand of interior decoration in the second half of the C20 which generally exists within the private, domestic spaces of clients drawn from a small, wealthy elite. It reflects a taste culture which developed largely independently of prevailing architectural trends, although synergies can be identified in England between Fowler and the unbroken classical tradition in the design of country houses.

DRUE HEINZ (1915-2018), born in Norfolk as Doreen Mary English, married Jack Heinz in 1953. For both it was a third marriage and the couple shared a love of philanthropy and art. A socialite and renowned hostess, Drue Heinz was also a committed patron of the arts in Britain and the US. She was the principal benefactor of literary journal, Antaeus, helped launch Ecco Press in 1971, endowed literary prizes and sat on the boards of numerous cultural institutions. A major contribution to the field of architectural history was funding the first gallery designed explicitly for the display of architectural drawings. The Heinz Gallery, as it was named, opened in 1972 at 21 Portman Square, London, housing the drawings collection of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Details

House, formed of mid-C19 and 1900 mews buildings, remodelled and decorated in about 1954 and 1986 by John Fowler and Renzo Mongiardino respectively.

43 HAY’S MEWS

MATERIALS: brick construction, rendered to front elevation with slate roofs and timber doors and double-hung sliding sash windows.

PLAN: the building has a C-shaped plan arranged around a central courtyard adjoining 41-42 Hay’s Mews. It is predominantly two storeys high with pitched roofs and a mansard with attic to the south-west. The front range faces north-east onto Hay’s Mews and contains an entrance hall, stair, service rooms and a dining room. The west range is principally occupied by Fowler’s large, partially double-height drawing room which has an apsidal end to the south. In the south range is a curved stair in an enclosed, top-lit well, a small reception room and a small third stair. On the first floor are bedrooms to the north and south, divided by the courtyard and double-height drawing room, and accessed from separate stairs. The north range has access to a terrace overlooking the courtyard. One of the bedrooms here was decorated by Fowler as a dining room.

EXTERIOR: the front elevation is of white-painted render; the first floor has five eight-over-eight sash windows and the ground floor has two pairs of half-glazed carriage doors to the left and a single pair to the right. Between are two doorways, one round-headed with a six-panel door, the other square-headed and half-glazed, set within a stepped stucco architrave. There is a small high-level window between.

The interior of the courtyard is painted pale pink with flat, white-painted stucco dressings. The south range has a pedimented parapet. Ground floor openings are round-headed French windows with glazing bars and first-floor windows are paired casements with glazing bars.

INTERIOR: the centrepiece of this interior is the drawing room. Approximately a double square in plan, the half to the north is double-height, lit along the east side by high windows and pairs of French windows opening onto the courtyard. The north end wall has a purple and white marble chimneypiece flanked by recessed bookcases with Classical architraves and pedimented heads. A frieze runs around the room at first floor height and above are plaster swags and corbel brackets. The southern half of the room is more intimate, with a conventional ceiling height and an apsidal end lined with recessed display shelves and bookcases divided by pairs of pilasters. The walls are painted in Fowler’s original paint scheme of grey-aquamarine.

Other rooms which had Fowler schemes include what was originally a first-floor dining room with a marble chimney piece and walls painted with a vine and trellis design and a small sitting room to the south with pale pink walls bordered above dado height with a dark grey paper by Mauny of Paris. The staircase to the south-west is lit from above by a glazed cupula and the walls of the stairwell were lined in a Mauny paper.

41-42 HAY’S MEWS

MATERIALS: red brick construction with white dressings. The roofs are of slate, doors and windows are timber.

PLAN: the building is of two-storeys over a lit basement. Situated on the corner of Hay’s Mews, it has a deep rectangular footprint with a C-shaped configuration of pitched roofs, the centre infilled with flat roofs.

The east range is mainly occupied by garaging, service rooms and two stairs whereas to the west the plan is almost fully occupied by the large, tripartite reception room created by Mongiardino. On the first floor there are bedrooms and a self-contained flat.

EXTERIOR: the exterior has an eclectic late Victorian style: red brick, banded and dressed with off-white stone, the windows are mullion-and-transomed casements with multi-paned transom lights and deep window sills. First-floor windows are dormers with pedimented gable-end parapets.

The south-east elevation has two pairs of carriage doors with square-paned fanlights; these are separated by a full-height bay with shaped gable-end parapet with pinnacles and a datestone of 1900. There is also a doorway with fanlight over and several banks of grouped ground-floor/basement windows. The north elevation has a pinnacled gable-end parapet to the east and a run of windows at ground and first floor. It is believed that the ground floor windows were inserted as part of the Mongiardino scheme, replacing an earlier carriage entrance. There are two doorways, one wide with a six-panel door, one narrow and part-glazed.

INTERIOR: the principal interior space is the large reception room to the west of the plan, created in about 1986 by Renzo Mongiardino. It is divided into three areas by pairs of opposing Corinthian columns and a modillioned cornice. The ceilings are painted with trompe-l’oeil coffering and the floor laid in a polished chequerboard of red/buff tiles. The walls are painted with trompe-l’oeil scenes of an abandoned Classical garden with statuary of mythological figures, and Classical doorcases grown-over with vegetation are painted around doors leading to other parts of the house.

At the south end is a fireplace, the stone chimney piece a moulded entablature carried by Tuscan columns, and at the north the end wall is gently curved. Over the centre of the room is a large glazed cupola with painted triglyph frieze and to the east side is a wide alcove flanked by columns. The back wall of the alcove is painted with a perspective view of an allée with columns, cypress trees and statuary. Opposite the alcove are French windows opening out into the courtyard of 43 Hay’s Mews.

Sources

Books and journals
Cornforth, J, The Inspiration of the Past Country House Taste in the Twentieth Century, (1985), p. 160
Mongiardino, R, Roomscapes, (2016 (2nd ed.), pp. 201-208
Robinson, J M, The Latest Country Houses, (1984), pp. 44-51
Wood, M, John Fowler: Prince of Decorators, (2007), pp. 154-157
Lindsay, L, 'My Favourite London House' in House and Garden, (January 1956), pp. 30-36
Cornforth, J, 'Prince of Humble Elegance, John Fowler I' in Country Life, (28 Aprial 1983), pp. 1092-1095
Cornforth, J, 'Comfort and Pleasing Decay, John Fowler II' in Country Life, (19 May 1983), pp. 1308-1311
Owens, M, 'Renzo Mongiardino' in Architectural Digest, (January 2000), pp. 208-211
Fizdale, R, 'Lombardy in London' in Architectural Digest, (February 1991), pp. 184-187
Websites
Fowler, John Beresford, entry in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed 02 February 2021 from https://www.oxforddnb.com
M Schudel, Obituary of Drue Heinz, The Independent, 10 April 2018, accessed 19 February 2021 from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/drue-heinz-died-dead-philanthropist-writers-award-heinz-endowments-a8296441.html
The Collection of Drue Heinz, Christies sale catalogue, 4 June 2019, accessed 19 February 2021 from www.christies.com/PDF/catalog/2019/CKS17737_SaleCat.pdf

Legal

This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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