Textile artist and painter Jenny Price and her husband, Derek Fordham, are used to working from home. They have done so for 20 years, the past seven of which they’ve spent living in St Peters Wharf, on the river in Hammersmith.
Here, there is no need to take turns using the home office. Derek works in software, but Jenny’s work requires a little more than a desk and a laptop.
“Having a good space as an artist is important,” says Price. “And also having a space that’s dedicated to art, where that’s all that goes on in the room, nothing else.
“It’s very unusual, this sort of set up where a house has been built with a studio.” This set-up comes courtesy of the Trevelyan Arts Trust, the freeholder of six houses at St Peters Wharf that were built or converted in the early Seventies by acclaimed artist Julian Trevelyan.
Next door to the Durham Wharf home that he shared with his wife and OBE-awarded artist, Mary Fedden, Trevelyan and architect Michael Pattrick designed the homes at St Peters Wharf specifically for artists, equipping each with its own dedicated studio space.
River deep: Jenny Price’s studio at her St Peter’s Wharf home
In 1974 he set up the Trevelyan Arts Trust, which ensures that the leasehold for the homes can only be sold to professional visual artists.
This is done via specialist estate agent Riverhomes, which will not even offer a viewing unless the interested buyer can prove their artistic credentials, although the agent concedes that “if David Hockney applied, we’d probably take his word for it”.
Applicants are frequently rejected. “Even photographers aren’t qualified and we have rejected many actors, film directors, professional musicians and dancers over the years,” says the agent.
All this means that the development has seen quite a roster of renowned artists in its 47 years, including painter Hugh Cronyn, former Arts Council director Sir Hugh Willatt and his wife, artist Evelyn Gibbs.
Views from the complex even seem to have made it into the Tate collection. A 1977 drawing by Gibbs, called Low Tide, Hammersmith, appears to show Hammersmith Bridge as viewed from St Peters Wharf. The collection also boasts prints by Trevelyan of Chiswick Eyot, a Thames island in sight of Durham Wharf.
In a rare turn of events, Price’s home is one of two properties in St Peters Wharf currently up for sale.
The second was formerly owned by artist Bernard Myers and his wife, Pamela, who died earlier this year. Price and Fordham are now moving to be closer to family, but fellow resident Barbara Brown is not leaving any time soon.
“I absolutely love it here,” says former textile designer Brown. “I don’t want to move, I’ll be carried out feet first.”
Brown is best known for the ground-breaking geometric print designs that she produced for Heal’s in the late Sixties and early Seventies, many of which are now in the collection of the V&A Museum.
Now 88 years old, Brown was one of the very first residents to move into St Peters Wharf properties in 1976, and has lived there ever since. “It inspires one in all sorts of ways,” she says of her riverside home.
“You get a real sense of time with the tide. You’re watching it go in, come up, come back in, go out and come back in again. It’s wonderful.” Nowadays, Brown has retired from designing “great big things” for the textile world, and uses her studio for making drawings and watercolours.
While she says her professional work was always too abstract to be overtly influenced by the views of the Thames from her studio, Price’s relationship with the surroundings of St Peters Wharf has been a little closer.
Inspiration abounds: Price surrounded by paintings in her home studio
“I did a whole series on bends in the river. We are actually on a bend in the river here, but it was also when my life changed substantially. It was the death of my father, and so there were some huge changes, inevitably. It made sense to have the river as the pivotal point.”
While waterside views have long provided inspiration for artists, they have also become a coveted selling point in the contemporary property market. In stark contrast to Seventies house prices in the tens of thousands, Price’s three-bedroom property now has a guide price of £2.5 million, while the Myers’ former home is valued at £1.5 million.
“We’ve done a lot of work on it,” says Price. “We’ve put on a new roof, added a new attic, a new room, and two new bathrooms, and I’ve extended the studio slightly. There aren’t really many rooms that we haven’t done something to.”
The price doesn’t just include the house and the studio, of course — it is also a ticket into a close-knit artists’ community, frequented over the decades by some of the capital’s most respected makers.
“We go out and have drinks out in the garden, and sometimes a meal. It’s all very sociable,” says Brown, who looks after the property’s communal garden.
“We’re not like ordinary neighbours who just say hello over the fence. We all know each other very well.”