Stepping inside Joel and Fiona Langford’s South London home from the outside hustle and bustle of London is like stepping into a calm oasis of light and airy space. Built in 2011, on the former site of a huge mock Tudor house, this modern house is filled with beautiful pictures, furniture, and pieces of silver, many of which have an intriguing story behind their provenance.
‘We’d been living in Battersea in a nice terraced house and had been there for fifteen years’, remembers Joel, ‘But eventually I got cabin fever and so we rented a flat by the river which was lovely but Fiona really wanted somewhere with a garden so we started to look around other parts of London which were more affordable. Because of my job at The London Silver Vaults, where I work underground all day, the idea of light and space really appealed to me and so when we saw this house, we knew that that this was it’.
Unfortunately, on advice from their surveyor, the couple didn’t have a full survey as the house came with a ten-year NHBC guarantee and they had assumed that everything was in order. ‘It transpired that the builder had run out of money right at the end of the build’, remembers Fiona. ‘He had lavished money on the house but there were some major issues which had to be put right before we could move in, including replacing all of the windows which weren’t fit for purpose and re-laying the decking which had been installed upside down. Eventually after much toing and froing and having had to move out twice the works were finally completed seven years later much to our relief’.
Having left their previous Victorian house, they had to completely rethink all of their furniture with a huge canvas to fill and have used the space to showcase silver pieces from their shop Langfords alongside mid-century furniture and favourite artists and photographers. Much of the furniture in the house was sourced from antique fairs and shops in Dulwich and Battersea but Fiona has cleverly mixed these pieces with inherited pieces as well as interesting accessories from their extensive travels to France, Italy and South America. ‘Danish furniture and chrome are all part of the mid-century bug that we caught. We bought the Niels Møller dining table and chairs from a friend and they’re from the sixties and have the original material on the chairs which is fantastic after all of this time, and bought the Art Deco style chrome chairs in the sitting room which are actually from the seventies in Cap Ferrat. As Joel says, we’re always dragging things back from somewhere’.
As the third generation of his family to work at The London Silver Vaults in Chancery Lane which were built in Victorian times to originally store valuables when houses were closed up for the season, Joel has had a lifelong affinity with silverware having started in the packing room for his grandparents who ran the business that they were founding members of and which was established in 1937. He moved to America in 1977 where he spent ten years sourcing and selling silver on the company’s behalf but whilst he’s passionate about the business, it’s the pair of 19th century American rosewood armchairs in the snug bought originally in Brighton that he would never be parted from. ‘They’re rare, beautifully made and extraordinary, and the carving is almost museum quality. When I moved to America I took a container of furniture with me that I thought would appeal to the Americans including the chairs which I’d had reupholstered in Italian velvet and while I was in Houston the local museum curator came to talk about the possibility of using some pieces for a show. Far from being British as I had had assumed, he told me that they are in fact American made around 1865 and exceedingly rare. He offered to buy them but I said no and so they’ve been across the Atlantic and back now several times’.
A beautiful mixture of old and new with carefully curated collections of objets d’art, the house has been decorated to maximise the space afforded to it with the high ceilings and large rooms. With Designers Guild Pale Birch on the sitting room walls and Tamara Silver curtains by Jane Churchill, the large butterfly photograph by Alexander Hamilton provides a dramatic backdrop to the room which houses beautiful silver pieces by De Vecchi and playful French-sourced ceramic birds. The snug which is a technology free zone with its upright piano, map table and the American armchairs is the perfect spot to read or play a tune or two and is given a zing of pattern and texture with a curtain and blind in Plaxo also by Jane Churchill. ‘I had help from friends, and my neighbour Lisa who has a great eye for decoration and interiors, is braver than me when it comes to colour and who encouraged me to be courageous’, and this is borne out by the playful Safari Dance wallpaper in the downstairs cloakroom.
And would they move again? ‘Well you never say never’, smiles Fiona ‘ But for the moment we love living here and Joel really appreciates the wonderful flooding of light and the sense of drama in the high ceilings, all a world away from his daytimes underground in The Vaults, and we’re enjoying the blank canvas to showcase our favourite things so no, not just yet’.