Architect Suzanne Brewer, who has reinvigorated Blackheath’s modern housing movement, shows Nikki Spencer around her own family home
My style is probably best described as Scandi Modern,’ explains Suzanne Brewer as she shows me around the stunning two-storey glazed pavilion in Blackheath that she designed herself. She moved in last year with her husband Andrew and two young children, Jarvis and Beth.
‘I like things that are modern but with texture from brick and wood. I don’t like the homes I create to feel too new or minimalist,’ she adds. ‘I want something that is engaging.’
And this home is certainly that – mixing neutral colours, exposed Danish brickwork and polished concrete floors with more homely features such as a laundry room, complete with ceiling-hung laundry maid from Blackheath’s Cookery Nook, a wood-burning stove that heats both the living area and Suzanne’s home office, and a delightful collection of paintings and photos, including a beautiful family portrait by local artist Lee Fether, which Suzanne gave Andrew as a 40th birthday present (incidentally, the artist hopes to exhibit the portrait in this year’s BP Portrait Awards at the National Portrait Gallery).
The L-shaped light-filled property, which is set around a courtyard garden, combines both family and work with a ‘grown-up end’ and ‘a more child- friendly end’, Suzanne explains. Leading off the double-height entrance hall (the glass balustrades to the staircase were made especially by Lee Green Glass) is a kids’ playroom. There is also an additional play area, which turns into a guest bedroom thanks to the ingenious addition of a pull-down double bed. A fold-back wall makes this whole space perfect for the children and their friends.
At the opposite end of the house – through the impressive open-plan kitchen and living area with its floor-to-ceiling sliding glass walls, Swedese armchairs and Arne Jacobson lamps – is Suzanne’s office, from where she runs her successful architecture business.
She says that she has her parents to thanks for inspiring her career choice: ‘They were always looking at property when I was a child and it must have rubbed off on me.’
While doing her Architecture MA at Greenwich University she recalls studying buildings on the Cator estate in Blackheath that were built in the 70s: ‘There was lots of innovative design, but then there was a bit of a lull and no one did much until now when we have seen a huge resurgence of interest in people wanting something modern but individual.’
This is the second home Suzanne has designed for herself in Blackheath. She grew up in Chislehurst but was always attracted to the area: ‘We always visited Greenwich Park when growing up and I love the sense of space. Also it’s bit closer to central London so you can always get a cab home,’ she adds.
Ten years ago, after a long search to find a suitable site, Suzanne built a home for herself and her husband just near the Clarendon Hotel in Blackheath. The modern three-bedroom home Suzanne designed, which was one of a pair of new builds, was a finalist for both a RIBA and a Grand Designs award and she rapidly made a name for herself, setting up her own company in 2007 after previously working for Barr Gazetas Architects.
One project quickly led to another and she has an impressive portfolio of work, including a number of new homes in Blackheath and Lee, and she is currently working on nine mews houses on the site of former garages and workshops next to Manor House Gardens.
‘When we built our first home it was just us, but then we got to the stage with the children where we needed a garden and more space so we made an offer,’ says Suzanne. She is full of praise for Kent company Astral Limited Building Contactors, who did all the building work.
‘I had worked with them before on a sports pavilion at Eltham College and they are very proactive. If there was a problem they would solve it.’
She also found Lewisham Council very supportive and feels that the borough is developing quite a reputation for innovative design, often within conservation areas: ‘Conservation areas need to be respected but that doesn’t mean you can’t be creative,’ says Suzanne. ‘When you drive past, this doesn’t jump out at you as a new house and I try and do that with all my houses.
‘I think people are often scared of the idea of something new at first but here the neighbours have been very welcoming and supportive. Now we have a nice house and a family living somewhere where before people were dumping mattresses.’