A 1960s Bungalow Renovation Project
David Weston and Scott Mycock have long extolled the virtues of mid century living, having lived in two 1960s bungalows prior to this one and having been lifelong collectors of Modernist furniture. We caught up with them before they sold their third bungalow on the Edgcumbe Park Estate, and took a look inside their mid century Californian style ranch home, beautifully furnished with Modernist pieces of the period by the likes of Arne Jacobsen, Eero Saarinen, G-Plan and Charles and Ray Eames.
Mid Century Ranch Home: The Edgcumbe Park Estate in Berkshire
It is with the latest bungalow renovation project in Edgcumbe Park, now complete, extensively documented and recently sold, that David and Scott’s take on single-storey living has been most successfully rendered, and it is utterly compelling. Inspired by the mid century ranch homes they so love and the stories of swinging parties in the 1960s, gleaned from original residents of the estate, David and Scott have fashioned a piece of cool Californian modernism so authentic that it is hardly credible that it is located on a wooded estate in Berkshire.
Their Modernist bungalow, designed to resemble a Californian mid Century Ranch Home, is part of the Edgcumbe Park Estate. Built between 1958 and 1972 and inspired by 1950s Scandinavian and American architecture, the development unfurls unexpectedly in a large area of English planted woodland. Wonderfully landscaped and immaculately maintained, it still has the same air of suburban utopia its original architects intended and as I arrive on a sunny July afternoon, I almost expect to be greeted by an American accent.
The builders of Edgcumbe Park pioneered new technologies throughout the estate that were not commonplace in 1960s homes in the UK. David explains, “Renway were one of the first builders to use double glazing and central heating and there were features like built-in wardrobes. The original brochure even included a ‘rumpus room!’ They were pushing the boundaries of the time, but no-one has really acknowledged it.”
Edgcumbe Park certainly appears to have ‘community’ in abundance. “The open-plan nature of the mid century estate means it was designed around community. We call it the ‘Edgcumbe slumber’. We’ll be in the garden, talking with neighbours and suddenly half the day’s gone. People really seem to look out for each other and we know everybody.”
Mid Century Ranch Home: the renovation of a tired bungalow
David and Scott run design and photography business Bungalow Industries from their mid century ranch home and it’s an appropriate testament to their imagination and creativity. The building’s frontage gives no indication of the tired and neglected gem that greeted them four years ago. The subtly angled roof and authentic detailing like tongue and groove panelling, carport and landscaping make for an understated but desirable exterior while the large windows preview an inviting Modernist interior.
I ask them how they arrived at such a desirable living space. “We were turned onto 1960s bungalows initially because it was the only place we could fit our piano,” David recounts, “they’re detached and the spaces inside are lovely. And then you realise, actually the light’s fantastic, there are big windows front and back and they just feel great to live in. Our friends laughed at us at first for our choice of home, but two sets have since moved onto the estate.”
Mid Century Ranch Home: Creating a Modernist interior
Entering the bungalow through the American walnut front door, I am led into a brick and hard-wood finished corridor, unexpectedly bright thanks to a modern skylight. It’s here you gain first sight of the original parquet flooring, stretching across the expanse of the living room, “the flooring turned out to be one of the most exciting and gratifying parts of the renovation, each section was painstakingly salvaged piece by piece”, Scott reveals. Beyond David’s white baby-grand piano, which evokes an unmistakable impression of John Barry, I spy a set of four bent-ply Arne Jacobsen dining chairs around an Eero Saarinen table, a G-Plan Astro coffee table, a tan leather Conran sofa, an Eames lounge chair and a beautiful Sori Yanagi Butterfly stool. The focus of the room is their modernist take on the log-burning fire, which seamlessly blends into the wall-space, in front of which lies one of the most luxurious looking deep-pile rugs imaginable. This is a room that could host the mother of all 1960s dinner parties (in fact it probably did, if the stories from their elderly neighbours are to be believed).
Leading off the living room is a winding corridor. The walls are lined with their photographs and the bedrooms and ‘den’ are tucked away off here; all bright, minimal spaces, decorated with a mix of contemporary and mid century: FLOS Tab lights sit alongside the mid century classic Arne Jacobsen Egg chair and a stunning Nathan sideboard.
So how have they created the look? “It’s not deliberate at all. It’s about collecting things that feel right and work in harmony with the house. The last thing we wanted was for the place to look like we’d just gone through a catalogue saying ‘we want one of those, and one of those’. It really takes time to evolve a nice collection of Mid Century furniture and interesting houses have special pieces that come from all over the place, not just off the internet. That takes a long time – it takes a lifetime for some people.”
Mid Century Ranch Home: Where vintage meets contemporary
While their design philosophy is always to renovate and furnish sympathetically, David and Scott acknowledge that you have to make compromises to achieve a comfortable living space. Nowhere is this more evident than in the bathroom. “There is a dilemma in that many 1960s bathrooms look fantastic as a piece of mid century design, but just don’t work as modern living spaces. We put the walnut paneling back in as a nod to some of the 1960s interiors we saw on the estate and that made all the difference; the rest of it is modern. This is the epitome of the modernist house – it is modern inside, but it’s still of its period. You can’t slavishly live in the past.”
They have managed to achieve the same result with the kitchen, complementing the space with a dramatic re-styling that is even more in keeping with the building’s Californian ranch style roots than the architect’s initial design. “The kitchen just had a tiny high-level window. We opened the partition with the living room creating an aperture and counter surface that’s transformed the area into a light, sociable space. We’ve put in a feature that would have appeared in US homes of the time and inspired the original architecture, but for whatever reason wasn’t included here.”
In the four years they have lived there, the pair have overcome every hurdle this property has put before them, and as they both talk of a sense of completion, it’s inevitable that there must be a new challenge on the horizon. Sure enough, the Californian ranch style bungalow was sold and David and Scott have now embarked on their next project: setting up a bed & breakfast in a Mid Century property in Kent. They will offer a unique retreat where guests can relax, enjoy their books, play piano or even undertake a short photography course, all in the company of two delightfully entertaining hosts.
Preserving Britain’s Modernist heritage at Edgcumbe Park
It is clear that David and Scott have a real determination to secure recognition and ultimately a future for this type of Modernist home design. The pair talk passionately about how sorry they are to see interesting housing bought either for building plots or for unsympathetic re-developments. David explains, “We pushed to get the significance of Edgcumbe Park estate recognised. It won a Civic Trust award in 1968 for its setting and the way it’s integrated into the environment, and it would be great if it was recognised again and protected from some of the more dubious building projects. One of the saddest things we’ve seen recently is two beautiful mid century houses sold for re-development, and then turned into mock-Tudor executive homes.”
They highlight the fact that with few exceptions the importance of mid century housing is under-documented and under-protected. “Unless you live in a Span house, they just get forgotten about”. The couple talk about the positive work that has been done by bodies like the 20th Century Society and Wowhaus to re-dress this, and also the local efforts they themselves have made, inspired by similar neighbourhood projects in the US, like that of the Hollin Hills estate in Washington DC. The Edgcumbe Park Preservation Association (EPPA) has been in place since the estate was in its infancy, vehemently controlling proposals for change to the Modernist estate, but Edgcumbe Park arguably deserves more formal recognition as a significant example of mid century British homebuilding at its best.
Useful links and information
For more on Renway and the Edgcumbe Park Estate, see MidCentury issue 02