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2 Willow Road (London)

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Ernö Goldfinger's 1930s Modernist family house in Hampstead, maintained by the National Trust.

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      21.10.2009 21:58
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      An important modernist building

      When I think of the National Trust I think of 18th and 19th century grand country houses with tea rooms, shops full of jams and volunteers in Laura Ashley. However its portfolio of properties is far wider than that ranging from Roman bathes to the childhood homes of the Beatless. 2 Willow Road in London's leafiest area hampstead certainly is not the stereotyped National Trust property. 2 Willow Road was built by the Hungarian Architect Erno Goldfinger (yes here is some connection between him and the James bond film. Apparently Ian Fleming sent Goldfinger first edition copies of the book) in 1939 and is one a fine example of Modernist architecture. 2 Willow Road was home to the Goldfinger family for 50 years and is pretty much , as how Erno and his wife Ursula (Ne Blackwell and heiress to the Cross and Blackwell soup company) . The property is fairly easy to find from Hampstead tube station on the Edgeware branch of the Northern Line . Once on Hampstead High Street take h first turning on the left. Just follow the brown signs. Check the National Trust website for other methods of public transport and a route if you are driving there. Its at the end of the Road so you can not miss it. Actually i did walk past it as I was slightly underwhelmed and thought this can not be it. My first impressions of 2 Willow Road was that it was a smell block of low rise flats that looked very modest compared to the grand Victorian villas and pretty cottages that surround it. However this did not put me off going in once I reallied that this unassuming building was the right property. Its based on a reinforced concrete structure with huge windows to let the light in. Hampstead is all hills and Willow Road is no exception. Thus the building has three storeys at the front but four at the back. Three of these floors are available for visiting whilst the ground floor at the back was built for servants and is now the custodian's flat. Like a lot of smaller National Trust properties opening times are limited so remember to check the website first. Its open from April to October Thursday, Friday and Saturday and on Saturday only in March and November. Its open from 12 to 5 on Thursday and Friday and an hour earlier on Saturday. I would recommended getting there earlier in the day, as the guided tours start on the hour at 12, 1 and 2 ( 11 on Saturdays) and really enhanced my visiting experience. The cost of the visit was reasonable. An adult ticket is £5.30. but there are no concessions for students or seniors. There are family and children's tickets but I'm not sure it would interest a child that much. If in Hampstead for the day I would recommend buying a ticket for £7.70 which also gives you access to nearby Fenton House. Best of all if you are a member of the National Trust you get in free. The visit lasts roughly an hour and starts off with a short informative film about Goldfinger and 2 Willow Road and then it was onto the tour. At first glance I wondered if we had a mix up with our guides. Colin was very much a character dressed like he should be in a Civil war reenactment in a more typical National Trust property such as Ham House due to his 17h century attire cavalier hat, frock coat and ribboned breeches . He was a very good tour guide which lots of information and anecdotes about the Goldfinger family such as Ursula only having Baxters and Sainsburys soup in the cupboard that brought the house alive for me. The tour started off in the low entrance hall and worked its way up th spiral staircase to the other two floors. I loved the staircase with its cork treads and the hemp rope balustrade. It was modern, minimalistic but beautiful like most of the house. The dining room where guests were entertained was a huge , light open spec with a centrepiece of a table designed by Goldfingerr. The table was unusual as the base is the base of a machine lathe making a very steady table. The chairs are just as unusual , as they have a tilted back to give the feeling of swinging back on two legs with out falling over. Most of the furniture in the building are Goldfinger's own designs. The other notable furnishings in the room are two ornate antique candlesticks that belonged to Goldfinger's mother who lived with the family in her old age. These just seemed so out of place and really demonstrated the modernity and clean lines of th rest of the house. Spaces flow into each other , as most rooms are separated by screens. Ursula's studio latterly Erno's office adjoins the dining room and I really liked the desk with the swiveling drawers p. To the back of the first floor is the family's living room with a beautiful curved mantel piece. I also really liked a chair that seemed very pop art designed by Ursula and the Goldfinger's daughter Liz and embroidered by Goldfinger's mother. 2 Willow Road is a place for modern art lovers, as it has a fine collection of art from the Goldfinger's peers including Henry More. The upper floor consists of the master bedroom, guest bedroom and the huge nursery. The bedroom seemed very minimalist with an en suite bathroom with heated floor and a bidet which was very uncommon in 1930s Britain. The guest bedroom also makes use of space with a pull down bed fitted in the wall and a wash basin enclosed in a cupboard. The nursery is fascinating as it is very dual purpose. It was designed with screens so at night it consisted of three bedrooms for the children and the nanny but the beds and screens could be folded back in the day to reveal a huge open plan nursery. Like most things in the house Goldfinger designed some of the toys. 2 Willow Road is quite a small property compared to others so there are less facilitates. There's certainly no tearoom selling scones nor a huge shop. Guidebooks and postcards are available att he entrance hall. But that's about it. I would recommended 2 Willow Road if you are a member of the National Trust, have an interest in 20th century architecture and modern art. It is a fascinating place to visit but perhaps no to everyone's taste. 2 Willow Road Hampstead, London NW3 1TH http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-2willowroad

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