Quirky 1970s House in the English Countryside Showcases an Amazing Modern Furniture Collection

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By Iain Aitch / Published by Dwell
A British design pioneer transforms a 1970s bachelor pad an hour outside London into a stylish furniture laboratory.

"I’d always wanted a carport," Sheridan Coakley says as he pulls his Jeep into his automobile shelter, outside Lawrence House, his Hampshire home.

Quirky 1970s House in the English Countryside Showcases an Amazing Modern Furniture Collection - Photo 1 of 18 - Sheridan Coakley, owner of the London-based furnishings purveyor SCP, uses his circa-1970s home as a testing ground for the furnishings he carries in his company’s inventory. In the foreground, a Balzac lounge chair by Matthew Hilton is draped with a Donna Wilson blanket.

Sheridan Coakley, owner of the London-based furnishings purveyor SCP, uses his circa-1970s home as a testing ground for the furnishings he carries in his company’s inventory. In the foreground, a Balzac lounge chair by Matthew Hilton is draped with a Donna Wilson blanket.

"It’s a pretty masculine kind of a house," the founder of UK furniture retailer and manufacturer SCP says by way of introduction to the 1975 build. This is, it emerges, something of an understatement about the bungalow, which is an hour’s train journey and a short countryside drive southwest of London. 

Quirky 1970s House in the English Countryside Showcases an Amazing Modern Furniture Collection - Photo 2 of 18 - Coakley commutes an hour into London, where his two SCP stores are located. In the entryway, a pair of Jasper Morrison tables join a vintage Moroccan rug. The circa 1980s Thinking Man’s Chair, also by Morrison, is in the foreground.

Coakley commutes an hour into London, where his two SCP stores are located. In the entryway, a pair of Jasper Morrison tables join a vintage Moroccan rug. The circa 1980s Thinking Man’s Chair, also by Morrison, is in the foreground.

The collaboration between Les Haywood, an engineer who spent his spare time rebuilding Aston Martins, and Hugh K. Harwood, a local architect usually restricted to designing extensions, the home eschews the mock-Tudor or faux-Georgian vernacular of the surrounding countryside. Instead, Lawrence House is part ranch, part middle school, and part space-age bachelor pad. Its design is so aberrant to rural English tastes that the 7,500-square-foot single-story with floating roof sat unsold on its 25-acre site for two years, until Coakley and his wife stumbled across it nine years ago when looking for somewhere near to the preferred school for their children.

Quirky 1970s House in the English Countryside Showcases an Amazing Modern Furniture Collection - Photo 3 of 18 - The house is located on a 25-acre site. It sat unsold on the property for two years before the couple discovered it.

The house is located on a 25-acre site. It sat unsold on the property for two years before the couple discovered it.

"The owner got so desperate that he had got planning permission to knock the house down and to build a two-story house," says Coakley. "Then we came along saying it was fantastic."

Quirky 1970s House in the English Countryside Showcases an Amazing Modern Furniture Collection - Photo 4 of 18 - Hilton’s rounded-form Balzac collection, which debuted in the early 1990s, continues to be a bestseller.

Hilton’s rounded-form Balzac collection, which debuted in the early 1990s, continues to be a bestseller.

SCP is known for bringing on marquee designers such as Jasper Morrison, Konstantin Grcic, and Matthew Hilton, but Coakley has plenty of respect for the work of the two unknowns who designed his home. This even extends to retaining the grand piano–shaped bathroom console and the deep-pile beige carpet, which is only slightly thicker than the fur on Coakley’s outsized French sheepdog, Bau.

Quirky 1970s House in the English Countryside Showcases an Amazing Modern Furniture Collection - Photo 5 of 18 - Louise Jenkins, left, chats with her daughter, Freya, who sits on a powder-coated Slatted bar stool by Jasper Morrison manufactured in Lancashire.

Louise Jenkins, left, chats with her daughter, Freya, who sits on a powder-coated Slatted bar stool by Jasper Morrison manufactured in Lancashire.

"It’s quite fun to leave something like that, but I don’t feel I have a responsibility to keep it as a kitsch feature," he says, noting that he did choose to remove certain past-their-prime features, like a circular bathtub complete with built-in telephone point. 

Quirky 1970s House in the English Countryside Showcases an Amazing Modern Furniture Collection - Photo 6 of 18 - The mahogany-paneled Poggenpohl kitchen system is original to the house. The kitchen opens to the living and dining area.

The mahogany-paneled Poggenpohl kitchen system is original to the house. The kitchen opens to the living and dining area.

Coakley also has his eye on tearing down the 1990s addition to the rear of the house. This Victorian-style structure, all dark wood and brass, was made to house an indoor pool as a sop to the then-owner’s wife, who wanted something in the home that did not scream Magnum, P.I. Fortunately, Coakley’s own wife, Louise Jenkins, is a huge fan of the home’s design, from the original tiled Poggenpohl kitchen to the stables and solid outbuildings that surround the main body of what is essentially a three-bedroom with add-ons. 

Quirky 1970s House in the English Countryside Showcases an Amazing Modern Furniture Collection - Photo 7 of 18 - In the eat-in portion of the kitchen, a George Nelson Bubble Lamp hangs above an Artek table and chairs by Alvar Aalto.

In the eat-in portion of the kitchen, a George Nelson Bubble Lamp hangs above an Artek table and chairs by Alvar Aalto.


Quirky 1970s House in the English Countryside Showcases an Amazing Modern Furniture Collection - Photo 8 of 18 - "The kitchen is pretty astonishing, really, considering it’s 40 years old," says resident Louise Jenkins.

"The kitchen is pretty astonishing, really, considering it’s 40 years old," says resident Louise Jenkins.

"That kitchen’s pretty astonishing really, considering it’s 40 years old," says Jenkins. "It’s a kind of balancing act of keeping the old stuff going and then knowing which bits to replace." She met Coakley via her stepfather’s antiquarian book business, but since the move to the countryside she has been more concerned with developing her asparagus patch than hunting out first editions. One wall in the kitchen is taken up with her vast cookbook collection, which sits upon thoroughly modern Michael Marriott shelving. 

Quirky 1970s House in the English Countryside Showcases an Amazing Modern Furniture Collection - Photo 9 of 18 - The floor tiles are close matches to the originals, which had to be replaced after a pipe burst.

The floor tiles are close matches to the originals, which had to be replaced after a pipe burst.

A reason that the home may have stayed on the market so long is its layout. The bedrooms are small and functional, especially what would have been the two guest rooms. The well-off of rural England generally want sprawling rooms that match the expanses of the landscape beyond the windows. Instead, this home looks like modern city living, with a vast loft-style living area that serves as a showcase for Coakley’s abilities as tastemaker. 

Quirky 1970s House in the English Countryside Showcases an Amazing Modern Furniture Collection - Photo 10 of 18 - A 2009 Cedric desk by Kay + Stemmer occupies the study.

A 2009 Cedric desk by Kay + Stemmer occupies the study.

The walls are covered with pieces by artists SCP has worked with including playful screen prints by Brooklynite Mark McGinnis, but there are also pieces by the couple’s 27-year-old son, Oscar, as well as an old Bazooka Joe box—a reminder of the fact that Coakley’s father once looked after the brand’s UK franchise. A battered leather sofa from the previous owner takes up one side of the room, but the rest is largely filled with prototypes, unsold orphans, and favorites from SCP’s store in Shoreditch, East London, including plenty of Matthew Hilton’s Balzac seating. 

Quirky 1970s House in the English Countryside Showcases an Amazing Modern Furniture Collection - Photo 11 of 18 - A pressed-steel Parallel shelving system by Terence Woodgate holds books and mementos.

A pressed-steel Parallel shelving system by Terence Woodgate holds books and mementos.

Shoreditch was once the center of London’s furniture manufacturing business and boasts the Geffrye Museum to celebrate this fact, complete with SCP furniture on display inside. Today, one is more likely to find craft bakeries and bearded baristas in the area. It’s a far cry from 1985, when Coakley moved his small vintage furniture and upholstery business into the area from the then-more fashionable Portobello Road. 

Quirky 1970s House in the English Countryside Showcases an Amazing Modern Furniture Collection - Photo 12 of 18 - The dining room features a Glo-Ball T table lamp by Jasper Morrison.

The dining room features a Glo-Ball T table lamp by Jasper Morrison.

"I would get a lot of classic tubular steel furniture re-chromed because, you know, you wouldn’t want a rusty chair," Coakley recalls. "Nowadays, of course you would. The only chrome plater I could find was in Shoreditch." 

Quirky 1970s House in the English Countryside Showcases an Amazing Modern Furniture Collection - Photo 13 of 18 - The master bedroom boasts a 1970s tufted headboard from Heals Leather and a wall covering of burlap, wool and silk by David Hicks. The bed covering is vintage, 1950s, and the Blocks linen basket was designed by Donna Wilson and made by the People of the Sun, a nonprofit based in Malawi.

The master bedroom boasts a 1970s tufted headboard from Heals Leather and a wall covering of burlap, wool and silk by David Hicks. The bed covering is vintage, 1950s, and the Blocks linen basket was designed by Donna Wilson and made by the People of the Sun, a nonprofit based in Malawi.

In 1985, an early Philippe Starck show in the SCP store established Coakley’s business as a go-to for fans of modern design. The business’s aspirations grew with the area around it, as the authorities gave way to pioneers such as Coakley and opened up zoning to retail and restaurants. Before long, SCP was a globally renowned brand with its own UK upholstery factory, turning out Balzac sofas and Donna Wilson chairs. It is now introducing contemporary America design to Europe, including the work of Brooklyn-based furniture and product designers Fort Standard. 

Quirky 1970s House in the English Countryside Showcases an Amazing Modern Furniture Collection - Photo 14 of 18 - The loveseat is by Terence Woodgate.

The loveseat is by Terence Woodgate.

"American design is really interesting, and I think it will become quite dominant eventually," Coakley says, reflecting on the future of the industry he has championed for the past 30 years. "Italy is still the center, but it’s really spun out, lost its way." 

Quirky 1970s House in the English Countryside Showcases an Amazing Modern Furniture Collection - Photo 15 of 18 - The tiered side table was designed by Jasper Morrison.

The tiered side table was designed by Jasper Morrison.

But Coakley has proven again and again that he’s not afraid to take a chance on an underdog. He arrived just in time to rescue a house that some may say had lost its way. Sure, the Austin Powers-esque bar has gone, but the spirit remains. Not many homes can boast an eccentric masculinity as their muse, but Lawrence House is certainly all the more interesting for it. 

Quirky 1970s House in the English Countryside Showcases an Amazing Modern Furniture Collection - Photo 16 of 18 - In the open-plan living and dining room, a dramatically sloped roofline allows for generous clerestory windows.

In the open-plan living and dining room, a dramatically sloped roofline allows for generous clerestory windows.


Quirky 1970s House in the English Countryside Showcases an Amazing Modern Furniture Collection - Photo 17 of 18 - Faudet-Harrison designed these modern coat hooks for SCP.

Faudet-Harrison designed these modern coat hooks for SCP.

Quirky 1970s House in the English Countryside Showcases an Amazing Modern Furniture Collection - Photo 18 of 18 - Lawrence House Floor Plan

Lawrence House Floor Plan

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