Photographs courtesy of Ben Anders
A Mid Century Home on The Dulwich Estate
Pattern designer Beth Evans lives with partner Matthew, eight-year-old son Stanley and Jack-Russell Elton in her mid century home, a 1958 terrace townhouse on the Dulwich Estate, a leafy oasis in south-east London. The three-bedroom house was actually Beth’s childhood home and the family moved back when she inherited it from her parents – this really was history repeating itself – her parents had moved in two weeks before she was born and she and Matthew made the move a month before Stanley’s birth.
Mid Century Home: Making a mark
That said, Beth wanted to put her own stamp on this mid century house. She explains “I’ve never wanted the place to become a shrine to my family. I have very happy memories of growing up here as a child, but those memories are enough for me and I’m not afraid of making changes.” The ground floor has been reconfigured into a space better suited to contemporary family life, and Beth’s flair for interior design can be seen throughout. She explains, “Originally the kitchen was partitioned off and we knocked the wall through to create a big open-plan space downstairs”, recounts Beth. “We tried to retain as much of the original structure as possible, like the tropical hardwood Jatoba floor in the living room, the steel-framed windows and the glass-paneled staircase.”
The house was designed with floor to ceiling windows that fill the entire rear wall downstairs. Beth and Matthew raised the ground level outside to create a patio on the same level as the living room, allowing easy access to the back garden. It faces south and light fills the space. Beth says, “I love sitting on the sofa in the summer with the door open, because it’s so quiet and you can just drift away. It’s very relaxing and you’d never think you were in a city.”
Mid Century Home: celebrating the past
I ask Beth whether growing up in a mid century house had an influence on her sense of style. “My parents were real aficionados of what was popular at the time. I grew up surrounded by lots of beautiful mid century furniture and mid century textiles and have a strong visual memory for specific patterns and colours. I vividly remember staring at the Heal’s curtains in my bedroom for hours as a child, following the repeat and being absolutely fascinated by how the pattern had been put together. I think it really influenced the way I’ve re-decorated the house.”
Beth has created a homage to mid century brand Formica in the bathroom (a plastic that was used in the original scheme), by commissioning a piece of Formica in vibrant ‘Wasabi’ to fit a new sliding door. It’s certainly evocative of the period and adds a splash of colour that looks incredibly contemporary. She says, “I’m planning to do the same to the fitted-cupboard doors throughout the house. I love the material and a lot of the original Formica colours from the 1950s and 1960s have now been re-issued.”
Mid Century Home: fleamarket finds
Beth’s choice of décor successfully marries mid century and contemporary, with lighter fabrics and splashes of colour set off against the original dark wood floor. “I’ve never wanted my house to look like a show home or a museum display”, she says. Many of the mid century pieces have been fleamarket finds (Beth drives to the annual one in Lille most years) or bought from car boot sales, “I’m a total thrifter and I love that process of finding things second-hand”.
Apart from a couple of inherited 1950s Heal’s pieces, much of the original furniture is gone. Beth explains, “My mother was a follower of fashion and in the 1980s, when a very different style came in, a very lucky charity shop inherited all that furniture. If there was anywhere I could go back to today, it would be to find that shop!”. Beth is attempting to reintroduce some of the original aesthetic. She’s collected vases aplenty, as well as tea caddies and coffee sets dating from the 1950s and ’60s. I spot among them a vase by Kaiser Pottery; a coffee set by Studio Pottery; ‘Spectrum’ tea and coffee caddies by T.G Green; storage jars by Sagaform, and a range of objects by Arzbeg, Bretby, Sgrato and Thomas. And Beth mixes in pieces that belonged to her parents too – a ‘Totem’ vase by Portmeirion, a ceramic coffee set by Susie Cooper and a 1950s Weather Clock by Taylor USA. She sets these off against with contemporary textiles, many of which display her own designs, among them ‘Hairpin’ and ‘Sunburst’ on the cushions and ‘Butterfly’ on the dining table runner.
Mid Century Home: a house for the future
Despite the changes that Beth and Matthew have made to the layout and décor, this is most definitely a mid century home with a history, an element made clear from the display of old family photographs by the front door. Beth says, “Stanley loves to hear stories about what I did in the house when I was little and I think it gives him a real sense of family, even though his grandparents are no longer here. We joke that it’s his ancestral pile!”
Beth’s home featured (with more photographs!) in History Repeating: The Hand-me-down Home from 1958 in MidCentury issue 03, which also contains an article on the Dulwich Estate with archive photographs.
Find information about Lille fleamarket
Discover more about the Formica colour palette here and check out our article Formica Forever for more on the history of the brand
To see more of Beth’s textile designs, go to her website Patternlore, and buy here