property of the week: camden gothic mansion with ties to surrealist artist and ally pally

Published in City A.M., March ’20

Slip behind Mornington Crescent station in Camden, take the second left, and you’ll find yourself on Oakley Square.

Walking alongside the manicured gardens, you’ll pass a row of stucco-fronted Georgian townhouses, identical save for the odd red door.

When you get to the end of the block though, there’s a bit of a surprise. With its towering turret, lancet windows and heavy oak door, it looks one part Victorian church, and one part something from the set of American Horror Story. And is that a sculpture of a donkey in the window?

The six-bed gothic revival masterpiece, which has just been put on the market, was previously the home and studio of American artist Nancy Fouts, who sadly passed away last year.

Fouts is best known for her distinctive sculptural works in a ‘modern-day surrealist’ style. She would create fantastical objects by combining everyday items, for example using the needle of a sewing machine to make it a record player, or putting false teeth inside a coin purse. Fouts also ran the Fouts and Fowler art gallery in Fitzrovia in the late 1980s, with her then-husband Malcolm Fowler.

She lived in the Oakley Square home for more than 40 years. It is grade II-listed, having been designed in the 1850s by John Johnson, who was also responsible for Alexandra Palace. It started life as the vicarage of St Matthew’s Church, and survived the church’s later demolition.

The five-storey property spans more than 5,000 sq ft and boasts large, Gothic-style windows, a wine cellar, garden, and private, gated driveway.

The artworks probably won’t be staying in the property once it is sold, but the buyer will still be able to enjoy the unique fixtures and fittings Fouts added to the home over the years.

It is being marketed by Knight Frank with an asking price of £4.25m.

“What I love about the property is the details: the shutters, the wood panelling, the flooring – it’s been beautifully maintained, and every time you turn a corner you find something interesting and unique,” says Keir Waddell from Knight Frank.

The Oakley Square home is almost twice as large as the average family home in the area, which totals around 2,000 sq ft.

Waddell adds that a diverse range of people have shown interest in the home already, from UK buyers to those from Europe and Asia. What they all have in common, he says, is that they’re looking for something out of the ordinary.

“You won’t see anything else like this anywhere in the area,” Waddell continues. “It has the gothic architecture, and also the connection to the former owner who used it almost like you would a gallery.

“Usually we do viewings in about half an hour, but here we can spend hours with a potential buyer.”

The faint-hearted will stick to the Georgian stucco – but for a buyer who likes to do things a little differently, this is a rare opportunity to own a piece of art and architecture history.

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