Another kind of dark romance – Dennis Severs’ House, Spitalfields, London
January 25, 2018
Back in few years ago, I came across an article about an enchanting apartment in Paris, which has been abandoned for almost 70 years like a time capsule, the mysterious story began to unfold when the apartment being unlocked, and eventually, unveiled the identity and the life of its owner. The story was very intriguing and irresistible to not keep reading, I started to realize that the owner of that apartment is a beautiful French socialite and courtesan, who lives during the heyday of the Belle Époque era, she was surrounded by intellects and stylish group of French elites, and the interior of her apartment in particular, literally captured both her personal taste and sense of style, elegant furniture and upholstery, sumptuous decorations and art from dinner room to her boudoir, despite they were covered by a layer of dust after all these years, this apartment has not been touched after the owner’s grand-daughter fled way during the outbreak of WWII when the German troops occupied the city of light back then, and it was locked since then. This article has gone viral especially within the circle of people who are a fanatic of art, interior design, antique and collectibles, which I have made myself a promise that I should stop-by to that legendary apartment when I visited Paris next time, and see it by myself, eventually, that day arrived and I did make myself a brief stop at Pigalle, where this mysterious apartment located, and got as close as I can to feel the mysterious beauty and story behind, sadly, it is a private property that not allow anyone to go in, therefore, the best I could do, is standing outside at the gate of the courtyard, and looked up at that apartment and visualized that I was inside, to recapture the owner’s life, having an up-close look with each single object and detail that curated by this tasteful woman, who spent her effort to decorate her home with her elegant style and taste. Ever since that visit, I have been fantasized about discovering some abandoned beauty similar to this property, which captured both the artistic history of a bygone era of glamour, also, as a reminiscent of the way of living and lifestyle back in those time; and magically, something came across me recently, instead of located in Paris, this mysterious property is located in London, Dennis Server’s House could possibly one of the intriguing time capsule, which enables visitors to enter and experience the mysterious beauty up-close and personal.
Located on 18 Folgate Street, the origin of Dennis Sever’s House is just as fascinating as the story of the Paris abandoned apartment as mentioned; a home for a silk-weavers family, the Huguenot, since early 18th century; located in Spitalfields where most of the silk weaver settled in that neighborhood dated back then, an thriving area which those skilled weavers created a huge impact over the upper class English with their meticulous taste of high fashion. The thriving economy enables these skilled households to build, and furnish their living space into something sumptuous and tasteful with exquisite furniture and textiles, one of the kind decorations, collectibles, art piece and home accessories, just imagine, from beautiful floral pattern curtains in luxurious fabrics and wrapped with a roped tassel, to elegant table tops, silverware, candlesticks and crystal vases that filled with fresh and fragrant flowers, not to mention, a commissioned portrait painting of the family that hanged in the grand salon or dining room, which reflects the affluent and power of the household and their heritage.
Even after almost half a century, one can always trace back all these bygone glory and beauty in Dennis Severs’ House. With the constant work by Mr. Dennis Severs, an American artist himself who settled in London and making this property as his home since 1979, Dennis made his best effort to refurbish the property throughout the time he lived there, bringing back the 18th century old master way of living to present time once again. In order to make it more unique, this artist resident has created a dramatic effect to make the entire property much alive with sensible effect, that included the authentic smell of the house, the real candle flame inside each room (which it did take hours to lit them!), maintaining the authentic details inside, from the table top and décor that left untouched, a bed that covered with an untidy bed linen that looks like someone just climbed out of the bed, and so on, which intensified the entire experience that feels like everything is just happening in present day, by now, that the family is literally still lives inside the house.
The entire property consisted of 10 different rooms, all possessed their very unique character and atmosphere, no matter it is the sumptuous and mysterious Eating Parlour, which reflects the elegant dining moment, or The Withdrawing Room, which everyone get together with the household in a harmonious ambient to share about their story or a laugh, to the mysterious small Back Parlour on the Ground Floor, a spiritual and private space in the property that enables one to connect to their inner soul, like a small sanctuary (or even a small chapel), by exploring in this historic apartment, one can literally experience something beautiful and the bygone English elegance, especially for those who are sentimental with the affluent living and English glamour from the past, the Dennis Severs’ House will certainly be one of the memorable stop when one visited London.
Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, what intrigues me a lot about Dennis Sever’s House is the mysterious beauty and romance that hidden inside, and one can only find out what’s behind the secret veil by exploring the entire property themselves, using their own imagination, at the same time, having an interpretation by the current House Curator, and create your own fantasy about the English elegance and sumptuous lifestyle back in 18th century.
To me, I always have certain fantasy about the ‘homme fatale’ encounter, imagine situating yourself in a dark and old Victorian house which nobody lives in for decades, the wore-out, aged atmosphere, color-faded carpets and tapestries, elegant objet d’Art and master paintings that covered in dust, then walked up to the creepy and dark staircase with the creaking sound from the wooden floor, opening a door with the same creepy sound and unveil the mystery inside that room, the unknown, the uncertainty, perhaps a laughing voice of a female phantom, or just an aged bed in dusted sumptuous bed linen, then proceed yourself towards the dressing table, witness the beautifully ornate toiletry containers, perfume bottles, and grooming items that laid on top, along with the aged and rusted portrait photograph in an ornate metal frame, perhaps an elegant dressed lady, or, a dapper gentleman in a tailored and handsome attire, then just when one looked up to the mirror, a reflection of a spirit with its gentle smile right upon your shoulder, the kind of mysterious and dark romance that makes it haunting to experience, yet, too beautiful to dare to try. (for some reason in this scenario, two tunes just prompt out in my head – ‘Wayward sisters’ by Abel Korzeniowski, &, ‘Judgement’ by Patrick Doyle)
Or better yet, why not make this as your Valentine’s Day surprise with your love one by visiting this together? You will never know how intriguing it is to experience this kind of dark romance in an unexpected way.
Photo by Roelof Bakker, image courtesy of Dennis Severs’ House, Spitalfields London