A London Mews Home With a Subterranean Dance Floor Asks £3.8M

Behind a modest brick exterior in Kensington, an expansive contemporary home built half underground is full of light, color, and kinetic design.
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Homes that architects design for themselves have always fallen into a subgenre. From Frank Gehry’s deconstructed 1920s bungalow in Santa Monica, California, to London’s Sir John Soane Museum, they are indulgent, reflecting penchants for wild experimentation and strange curiosities.

Hidden House features a glass wall at the rear that retracts to create one big indoor/outdoor space.

Just a few miles west of the John Soane Museum, in London’s Kensington neighborhood, is another example: the former home of British architect Ian Hogarth—a boldly colorful contemporary design hiding within a brick facade.

Climbing rose camouflages a yellow stone exterior designed to match the adjacent mews homes, but a blue mirrored door hints at the contemporary style inside.

Hidden House is positioned at the end of the lane in Russell Gardens Mews in Kensington.

Aptly named Hidden House, the residence, finished in 2011, is clad in yellow brick that’s nearly entirely hidden by climbing rose. If you look closely, though, a touch of bold contemporary design reveals itself.

From the kitchen and patio, you can see the cobblestone Russell Gardens Mews.

"Behind its rose-covered London-stock façade, the house could be traditional fare, though the blue-mirrored front door and window above give some indication of adventure beyond," says the home’s agent, James Klonaris of The Modern House. "No house existed on the plot, but Ian Hogarth’s design behaves as if a mews house has been joined to a subterranean warehouse apartment."

The stairway acts as an atrium, bringing light deep into the interior and into the home’s expansive subterranean space.

Entering the L-shaped home, an open stairway leads upstairs to second and third-floor bedrooms, and downstairs to an extensive primary suite and entertainment area. But it’s the wide-open living area straight ahead that pulls one in.

The kitchen portion of this room, fashioned by Minimale, barely looks like a kitchen, for all its appliances are hidden away behind walls of white cabinetry. The kitchen island includes a movable oak wood top that covers the cooking range while not in use. While cooking, it slides away to form a small counter. A wide picture window frames trains as they pass by.

The kitchen has storage enough to hide hide all its appliances, and an oak slat slides to cover the range.

The cabinets open to reveal hidden appliances. The oak-top island is shown here in a closed position.

What’s really striking about the kitchen and living area, though, is how an entire wall of glass can slide out of sight, creating a combined indoor/outdoor space with a deck and lawn. It’s an ideal spot for entertaining, the Technicolor green of the turf lawn playing off the pink walls in the kitchen.

Moving upstairs is an adventure unto itself. With a glass skylight overhead and a glass wall to the side, the stairway has the feel of an atrium.

Fancy a meditative escape without leaving home? Consider the bubble chair hanging over a glassed-in rock garden at the top of the stairs.

The upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms alternate between pristine whiteness (one room is completely white) and the use of bold color, graphics, and patterning. From room to room are skull-patterned wallpaper, yellow walls, and assorted graphics; one bedroom door is festooned with the cover of The Clash album London Calling.

One bedroom is covered in white.

Each of the bedrooms, designed for the owners’ teenage children, comes with its own graphic identity.

Even if there are no skeletons in the mirrored closet, you can have skull-patterned wallpaper.

The home’s real showpiece, though, is arguably the expansive subterranean level. Don’t dare call this a basement, though—it’s too full of light. Thanks to a series of light wells and even a mirrored periscope, the downstairs feels as bright as the upstairs.

"The house opens to light," Klonaris says. "So many subterranean London conversions forfeit light in their pursuit of space, largely inhibited by the spatial designs available to them. Here, the lower level very much feels part of the house. In parts, darkness is embraced and combined with water and strips of light to create a sense of mystery. It’s anything but typical, but very intentional."

A glass-mounted illuminated artwork by Simon Tyszko delivers a cheeky message for this sunken home cinema room.

The cinema room is bathed in a rainbow of color.

If you didn’t already think this house was fun, consider the illuminated dance floor at the center of the downstairs. Ian and his wife, Claire Farrow, already had two teenage children when the house was built, which gave them a certain motivation: to give the kids a place they’d actually want to hang out. That includes not just the soundproofed dance floor and DJ booth with accompanying sound system, but a home cinema with sofas sunken into the ground.

In the daytime, the illuminated dance floor and light art give way to bountiful natural light.

But the idea actually started with Claire’s own passion for dancing. "I love to dance, but I’m too old to go out," she told London’s Evening Standard in 2012. Ian sourced the dance floor from China, and it doubles as lighting for the room. "It’s quite nice," says Claire. "It keeps the teenagers under your roof so you know where they are."

And if audio-video delights don’t entice you, consider another corner of the basement, a spa room with a sauna. Here, an egg-shaped hot tub is bathed in natural light from a mirrored periscope.

A wing of the subterranean level is a kind of home spa.

Beside the sauna is a tub with a whirlpool setting.

Around the corner from the dance floor and sunken cinema room is the primary suite, which comes with another curiosity: an open shower with blue limestone floors right beside the bed. More natural light pours in from a light well.

It’s easy to roll out of bed when an open shower is part of the bedroom.

The house is not just gloss. It’s also remarkably green. Rooftop photovoltaic panels provide energy, and thermal-solar collectors heat the water, which in turn provides radiant floor heating.

Back in the basement’s sunken cinema room, a mirrored glass wall is affixed with a text-based artwork by artist Simon Tyszko featuring the same sentence written eight times in all-caps: I just can’t take it anymore. At some point, that’s what Ian and Claire may have said. With their teenagers no longer teenagers, they decided to put their house up for sale.

The world is a very different place than 2011, when the house was completed and featured on the television show Grand Designs. And even though the home may have never been in style, it will certainly never be out of style, either.

Hidden House at Russell Gardens Mews in London is currently listed for £3,850,000 (roughly $5,129,000) by James Klonaris of The Modern House.

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