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Miraflores, a stunning 1962 house

I am so jealous of Samantha Benson's house in Rickmansworth. The place is like a time machine back to the 1960s – but not a polished, idealised 2012 recreation of what it could have looked like, but a genuine early sixties family home, very well preserved and visibly loved and lived in. No wonder she hires it out as a location house for period films and TV shows.

Step inside, and meet Samantha, who lives here with her husband Jim, daughters Harriet, 9, Celia, 7, Margo the miniature dachshund (scroll down for her, she's very nice), and Sid and Johnny the guinea pigs... (And do check out the amazing coloured bathrooms: I LOVE them, no wonder Jonathan Adler has just launched a range of colourful basins... this is a look that is coming back, we'll be mourning throwing out those avocado suites, I'm telling you.)

Over to Samantha, to talk you through the house... "The previous owners bought this plot in beautiful woodland on a private estate near Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire. Miraflores was built for them in 1962, with an architect called K Valdmanis. The house name has a lovely history – the previous owners were a BOAC pilot and his wife, a Spanish air stewardess, who first met in the Port of Miraflores. It became a happy family home for them for 50 years until sadly we bought the house probate last year. The house is unusual as it has been virtually untouched since it was built – it retains all the original decor and fittings, and a great deal of original midcentury furniture."

How did you come to live in it? "We had been looking for our "forever house" for almost two years when we stumbled on Miraflores – way above our budget! I fell in love. The agent told us that because of the location and size of the grounds it was sure to be snapped up by developers, who would knock it down to build a footballers-wives' style mansion. It broke my heart – the house was still fully furnished and the love and warmth here was palpable. We were invited to meet the son who was selling the house, and incredibly he and his sister passed over the queue of developers offering big money, in our favour. Their kindness has transformed our lives."

Interesting features? "There is a bank of 15 switches incorporated into the headboard on our bed – they operate ceiling lights and lamps, TV sockets and plug sockets! Every electrician that has visited has taken photos of it to show their mates. Also the industrial size oil-fired boiler which occupies it's own room off the kitchen; the house is heated by warm air vents, there are no radiators. The house was designed so that all the children's bedrooms are exactly the same size – so no-one has to have the smallest room. A brilliant idea."

Favourite features? "Many people would choose the unusually-shaped lounge, but I love small things like its door handles, the wall lights, the way the hall window has a slight curve. I love the peaceful balcony off the master bedroom, and the fact you never need blinds or frosted glass in the bathrooms because it's so secluded. The views from the picture windows are incredible – as if every single window frame holds a work of art. The bathrooms are very cool and I love the coloured suites! The formica wall coverings look so neat and it's very easy to clean.

What's it like to live in? Very comfortable and it must have been quite advanced for the era it was built. The heating, although extremely inefficient, is really effective. Most tradesmen have tried (and failed) to persuade us to install halogen lights in the kitchen and bathrooms, or ceiling lights in the lounge (entirely lit by lamps using 3amp sockets that are operated by the standard wall switch). Ordinarily we would have chosen floor tiles for the bathrooms, or wood for the kitchen, but we found some brilliant vinyl floor tiles that visitors now think are original. We had to remove most of the original kitchen as the wood was warped, rotten and a bit smelly. At the moment we have units from eBay but it may be a real test choosing a kitchen to suit the house.

Where have you been shopping and finding inspiration?

  • Midcentury Magazine is a great read, full of inspiration and very informative. 
  • Wallpaper Direct have the biggest range of wallpaper you could find. For late 1950s/early 1960s, choose geometric patterns or textured papers, like hessian, rather than the large floral patterns of the late 1960s.
  • Berkshire Trade Flooring Supplies in Bracknell is where we got our lovely vinyl floor tiles. Their prices are great and the choice is huge – the tiles are also very easy to lay yourself. Speak to Matthew: on +44 (0) 1344 303439.
  • Wowhaus is a website I'm addicted to: there are inspiring, authentic houses from all eras, but a lot from the 1950s-1970s. It's a real education in appreciating unusual domestic architecture.

Film types: want to hire this house? Find more details on the Film Locations website.

In a few weeks, I'll be posting up a fascinating interview I did with the owner of Film Locations, all about the ins and outs of hiring out your own home as a location for shoots, along with some of the most special properties on her books.

Architectural drawings by illustrator, Thibaud Herem

These architectural drawings by Thibaud Herem, a French illustrator based in London, are beautiful in their simplicity and friendly edges. 

And there's a reason for the latter: the drawings are taken from Thibaud's new book, Draw me a House – which, brilliantly, is an architectural colouring book for children. It costs £12.95 (Cicada Books) and is available from Amazon. I know when I was little I'd have loved it (and it could keep me quiet for hours even now). Just look at all the satisfying segments to fill in and shade... a perfect present for the creative and aesthetically appreciative youth in your world.

This isn't the first time Frank Lloyd Wright's 'Falling Water'  has been created for children (and big children). See where else here
 Le Corbusier's Ronchamp (aka Notre Dame du Haut)

Trellick Tower, the famous, listed-status block of flats in west London
London's 'Gherkin' building in the city
'Art Deco cinema'
New York's Chrysler building


You can also buy limited editions of some of his grown-up architectural drawings at £250 from his gallery, East of Mayfair.

Check out his portfolio, too – he's done some really great stuff. I really like this wallpaper he designed for digital media agency, Zone Content (which also happens to be one of the loveliest places to work ever)...

Fantastic, innit?

A calm but colourful home

I love the relaxed, unprecious styling of this apartment in Holland, belonging to graphic designer and artist Jane Schouten. She is the owner of the Etsy shop All the Luck in the World and is featured on this week's Get the Look over on the Etsy blog. 

This is just a sample of the beautiful photos of her place; check out the Etsy blog for more, and also for inspiration about how to get Jane's look.

I really love Jane's postcards, £5.75 for six, above.

But my absolute favourite recommendation for a Jane-ish Etsy buy? This porcelaine doll's head tea-light, available from Reshape Studio for £36. This shop also sells dolls head planters, which I have featured before on the Facebook page. Regular readers will be familiar with my ghoulish obsession with such things...

Interesting ceiling shades (and procrastination)

My parents have just redecorated their front room and my dad asked if I'd help him to find a ceiling lampshade – ideally just like the pink glass, giant saucer-shaped 1930s one they rashly gave away during their last big clear-out please.

I could only – after, admittedly, quite a brief search – come up with very expensive versions or ones for sale online on a pick-up in person basis, in far flung parts of the country. I shall resume the search afresh... meanwhile, I got a little distracted searching for other, interesting, ways to adorn the pendant light in one's life. Brilliantly, not one of them would even be a potential alternative for the parents. But that's procrastination for you...

This makes me want to live in a Scandinavian forest cabin. It costs £30 and will soon be in stock at Habitat

I featured these a while back in a post about a light made from old jam jars. You can read about the company in the UK that reckons it can make jam jar lights for you – or make your own. The construction is simpler than it first looks as the glasses just hang around a central lightbulb. This one is no longer for sale, but there are similar ones at Boots n Gus, the Etsy shop that makes them with prices for this sort of thing starting around £80.

This embroidered blue tit shade is simply very sweet. It's by Dear Emma Designs and on sale at Folly and Glee for £42.

Lampshade porn for me, these 'Hex' and 'Bridget' walnut shades designed by Sarah Newman. The sharp brights against the shiny walnut grain backdrop makes for a stunner. Available from Heals for £150. Way beyond my current price range for lampshades, but too beautiful not to include.

I do like a recycled tin can. Around £63 from Klickity this design is simple but clever, as the inside surface lets the lightbulb cast a particularly lovely glow.

Designed by KaiGami, this clever propylane lamp drape is beautifully simple in concept, and would create lovely shadows when illuminated. Buy it for £35 from Bouf.

If I had a budget to blow, I'd blow it on these, for sale at Rockett St George for £275. I have wondered how hard it'd be to replicate the idea – approximately – via eBay, the electrical store and a bit of ingenuity. One day perhaps I'll give it a go...

Jazz Covers II - the new Taschen book

If, like me, you still harbour fondness for a bit of old-school technology, you may also still have a cherished vinyl collection. And even if you've converted the lot to digital, you can still make good use of those records – they make excellent free artwork.

Here are a couple I have propped up around my place... I'm lucky still to have them: I inherited from my oldest brother, Simon, when he moved to Australia. Or at least, that's what I assumed when I had a car boot sale and thought I'd take it upon myself as a poor student, convinced indie was the only music worth listening to (that phase lasted just a few years, fortunately) to add them to the booty. I wondered why the punters were so pleased and kept asking if my brother knew and wouldn't he be sending for them to be shipped. "Course not!" I chirped confidently. I was wrong. I think he's forgiven me...

But Taschen's new coffee table book, Jazz Covers II, £35, is a an even better advertisement of why album artwork shouldn't be stuck in a cupboard.

So put on a black turtle neck, pour yourself a tumbler of Scotch, stroke your chin, picture yourself at a Mad Men party circa series II – and enjoy these beauties from the Taschen book, which would also make a spectacular present for the design-appreciating muso in your life. And, yes, sacrilege, but if you don't have any record sleeves as beautiful as these, you could always slice them out of the book with a Stanley knife and frame them, as I did with my John Hinde Butlin's book.

Dick Katz (Nixa)