A charred timber-clad house called Valhalla, set in one of London’s Magnificent Seven cemeteries and with topiary tombstones on the roof, has gone on the market just in time for Halloween. Named for the hall where Vikings were said to reside after death in Norse mythology, the striking modern property backs directly on to Highgate Cemetery, with marble headstones butting right up to the house and visible just outside the lower-floor windows.
David Pearson and his partner, Raymond Flatt, who have lived in the house for more than 20 years, commissioned Denizen architects to transform the façade of their two-bedroom house in 2016 after the two neighbouring houses were rebuilt in a highly contemporary style. The couple wanted the new design of the building to reference the cemetery as well as their interest in the macabre.
English larch fins that had been ‘traumatised’, an ancient Japanese technique where the wood is charred, making it black, crackled with a crocodile skin-effect and as dead as possible, were attached to the front of the house. “The old exterior of the building can still be seen behind the fins and when you walk up Swains Lane they seem to flutter, giving a ghostly effect,” says David, who used to run a high-end greetings-card business and has collected ephemera relating to Highgate Cemetery since moving into the house.
The collection includes a receipt for one of the old graves, material relating to the ‘Highgate vampire’ media frenzy in 1970, which led to a battle in the press between two vampire hunters, and a crest featuring a skull, specially designed for the house by the graphic designer Brian Webb.
A selection of ornate Victorian memorial cards are on display in the loo and the three roof terraces are screened by tongue-in-cheek topiary shaped like tombstones and obelisks – but the couple say there is nothing particularly macabre about the house otherwise. The interiors are sleek and modern, designed in the Eighties by the legendary interior designer Mary Fox Linton.
“It’s a modern house and there’s a lot of glazing so there’s lots of light in every room. Because we’re surrounded by the cemetery and Waterlow Park you see greenery from every window – it’s like living in the country,” says David. From the rooftop conservatory there are views across London, all the way to Crystal Palace. Valhalla is being sold for £2.5 million.
Article source: Evening Standard