Make like Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio and invest in a house with an art studio
- By Bertie Russell
- 26 September 2019
They can currently be seen together on screen in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. But off-camera, there’s nowhere that Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio would rather be than in the sculpting studio of Pitt’s LA home, where the actors and friends – both big art collectors – have discovered a shared love of moulding clay.
“I’m having a moment of getting to feel emotion at my fingertips. But to get that emotion to clay – I just haven’t cracked the surface,” says Pitt of the space in which he whiles away long nights.
Only in Hollywood… Though, actually, in these times of heightened awareness of mental health, of mindfulness and desperately seeking a work/life balance, the luxury of having a space at home where we can switch off and let our creative minds roam seems like the ultimate luxury.
In central London, where every square metre carries a hefty price tag, it’s rare to find such an unreconstructed space as an artist’s studio – one that has resisted the lure of the big family kitchen or home cinema. Yet in Clapham Old Town, a three-bedroom house belonging to the figurative painter John Monks has just that.
Monks first stumbled across the empty building with its big arched doors – formerly a stable, a factory for cricket bats and door-springs and a repository for stolen mattresses – when he was an art student.
“It was jet black, the floorboards were sagging, the floor was earth. It had never been a house, but I began painting in the studio and after a few years, the owner offered to sell the building to me,” says Monks, whose forthcoming exhibition, The Studio, is at the Long & Ryle gallery in London from October 15th-November 16th.
Monks and his wife Sue, a botanical artist, converted the building into their home more than 20 years ago and have painted in the studio almost every day since. Now, however, they spend much of their year working from their chateau in the Somme region of northern France and have put the Clapham house on the market for £2.495m through Knight Frank.
“It’s quite a particular place – even quieter than where I am in the French countryside,” says Monks. “It’s like living in a country cottage. I think you’d be hard-pushed to find a space like it in London.”
You may, though, in West London’s Shepherd’s Bush, where artist Eliza Parker has a similarly inspiring studio. She chanced upon her “tardis” of a house – “with the vast proportions of living space and a really voluminous studio space as a bonus” – when she and her husband were looking to downsize several years ago.
The house had been a mechanic’s garage before conversion into two houses. Parker’s L-shaped, two-bed house – now on sale for £1.85m through Finlay Brewer – includes a large artist’s studio leading off the kitchen and breakfast room.
“We share the studio with a young gifted artist, and in our lifetime it has been used as an exhibition space for 10 artists, a dance floor, film location, concert hall and a space for life model classes,” she says. “Living in this place feeds the imagination. It is light because of side windows and skylights, surprisingly warm given the space and it has been enormous fun. We will never find anything like it again.”
The luxurious space of an art studio can also lend itself to a dramatic renovation. Glebe Place in Chelsea has been the home and workplace of many famous artists over the years, including Augustus John and Winifred Nicholson.
Now, No. 66 Glebe Place – a 19th century stable block converted into a studio by the Scottish painter Anton Dollo – has been transformed into a modern home with a mixture of polished concrete and glazing, including an entirely glass staircase and walkway leading to the two bedroom suites.
The house – on sale for £5.15m through Russell Simpson, and currently adorned with original works by David Yarrow, the famous wildlife photographer who is based next door – also features a pitched ceiling that juts out alongside the roof terrace, like a mini version of the Louvre.
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