Architect Simon Gill reveals the inspiration behind The Lodge / Architecture , Design
Architect Simon Gill reveals the inspiration behind The Lodge

How paintings and perspective influenced the Gothic conversion dubbed Grand Designs’ most extravagant build.

How paintings and perspective influenced the Gothic conversion dubbed Grand Designs’ most extravagant build.

With its 17-metre indoor pool and open-plan spaces, The Lodge has undergone something of a reincarnation. Built in 1865 as the living quarters for the cemetery superintendent, homeowner Justin Maxwell-Stuart called on Simon Gill Architects to bring this Gothic Revival-style home into the 21st century. Justin's aim was to have a foothold in Fulham reminiscent of Traquair House – his family’s historical home in rural Scotland. The reality wasn’t quite so straightforward – as documented by Grand Designs.

Planning constraints meant digging down was the only way to accommodate the sprawling home that exists today. Largely subterranean, old-world influences unite three levels, five bedrooms and an array of living space. “We wanted to bring something of the original building into the new extension without it being pastiche,” explains Simon Gill, of Simon Gill Architects.




The project doesn’t shy away from contrasts. The original building features rock-and-mortar brickwork and a steeply pitched roof. By comparison, the low-lying extension is composed of clean lines and smooth surfaces. The classic and the contemporary are subtly interwoven. An open-tread staircase now features in the existing building while the extension is constructed from Bath stone to honour the original materials.

Elsewhere, the pattern on the spandrel panels above the original windows is repeated in the new part of the house. “It’s this game of sameness and difference,” Simon notes. Outside, the home’s “moat” creates a focal point and a moment of interest. “The idea of a moated manor house is almost a medieval fantasy,” Simon poses. Here, however, it is expressed in a contemporary way. “It carries the spirit of the old into the new.”




The work of William Burges, an eccentric Victorian Gothic architect, proved to be a valuable reference point. Burges remodelled Cardiff Castle and built his own castle-inspired home in Holland Park, now inhabited by Led Zeppelin founder and guitarist Jimmy Page. Simon also drew inspiration from the balance and symmetry of old paintings.

“There’s a particularly pertinent Pre-Raphaelite painting by Millais called The Vale of Rest. It’s of two nuns digging a grave and in the background, behind a wall, you see a belfry. It’s very evocative of what we have here,” he says, referencing the chapel that backdrops The Lodge.




The home’s internal footprint also takes inspiration from art. Seemingly labyrinth-like corridors have been purposefully positioned to offer specific viewpoints. Inspired by Las Meninas, a Velázquez painting celebrated for its sense of perspective, the vista from the snug extends all the way through to the front door.

At the centre of the home, a stone staircase with a sculpted handrail winds its way downwards. It provides access to the lower level while allowing for an unbroken sightline on the ground floor. Simon notes that the staircase is his favourite space in the project. “It has a particular geometry,” he explains. “We designed every single block in 3D. It was like a puzzle, but the stonemasons were phenomenal.”


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Positioned directly above the staircase, a large skylight imbues the home with a rejuvenating atmosphere. The skylight also casts its rounded, triangular shape on a wall below to create a “ghost window” viewable from various rooms. No happy accident, this effect is portrayed in Simon’s original plans.

This consideration of light and shadow chimes with the millimetre precision employed throughout. To ensure that glazing is truly floor-to-ceiling, no framing was allowed to be showing. “We put a huge amount of work into the little details,” Simon explains. “Absolutely everything was carefully considered.”




Further exemplifying his closeness to the project, Simon even painted a triptych himself, to decorate a concealed door in the games room. Through full-height windows, this space looks over the pièce de résistance of this floor – the 17-metre pool complete with a chainmail water feature. Resourceful design incorporates natural light into this level, with light wells spanning multiple rooms.

Dominating the first floor, the principal bedroom suite enjoys vaulted ceilings and exposed beams yet draws upon contemporary concepts. “To some extent, modernness has invaded the old building,” Simon muses. “But the old building has also influenced the new one. There’s a reciprocation going on, so it ends up being more than the sum of its parts.”

The Lodge is available for short stays from £2,000 per night


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