Art Deco Masterpiece Lives Again
Les Lumières, the International-style house on La Route Orange in St Brelade, has been completely restored in a way that would almost certainly have impressed its designer, the architect Arthur Grayson. The new owners moved in during June after completing a spectacular two-year makeover overseen by architects Axis Mason and builders Stansells. They willingly complied with restrictions from the former Planning Committee that saw Hope's Sliding & Folding Windows retained and the interior fittings - designed by Grayson - refurbished or copied by craftsmen in Yorkshire.
Commissioned by the builders' merchant, Ernest "Tony" Huelin in 1934, Les Lumières was expected to cost £2,500 but delays pushed the price to £10,000. It's not known how much the new owners spent on the latest restoration work, completed exactly seventy years after the house was built. They have added a wall alongside the road, gates modelled on those at Green Court in Green Street - another of Grayson's designs - and an indoor swimming pool in its own block on the east of the site.
The house itself was gutted but only after the fitted furniture had been removed and sent to the firm of Shaw and Riley near Harrogate to be restored or reconstructed. The new owners commissioned over twenty new pieces from the same firm, some based on furniture in the 2003 Art Deco exhibition at the V & A. All the chrome work, including the stair rail and the huge ceiling light in the lounge, was sent to a specialist firm near Leeds. The Planning Committee allowed considerable alterations to the kitchen, including a new door to the garden but, otherwise, the internal form of the house remains unchanged. Externally, the building has got a little fatter, thanks to the addition of an insulating coating but now rejoices in a dazzling white paint scheme, just as it did in 1934 when Islanders made excursions from St Helier to see this latest addition to the St Brelade skyline. Grayson's design in the garden has been re-created and the single gate pier - thought to be very avant garde at the time - has been restored complete with the name of the house in Jazz-Age lettering.
The restoration is a success for the previous Planning Committee - which placed severe restrictions on the owners - and Save Jersey's Heritage which campaigned for the importance of Les Lumières to be recognised by the Committee. At one point, SJH paid for a survey of the building by Brian Morton which helped to achieve its designation as a Site of Special Interest (the equivalent of a Grade 1 listing in the UK).
This 1930's house survived because it had owners who recognised its importance. Eventually, the planning committee of the day saw it too and the future of this iconic house now looks secure.
Before its new owners bought it in 2002, Les Lumières had had only two owners. The man who had it built, "Tony" Huelin, sold it in the early 1950s to Harold Podmore, an alderman from the Midlands. Podmore moved here with his family and, when he died, his widow, Olive, continued to live in it before moving to a nursing home in St Brelade. Her son, John, divided his time between this unusual Jersey house and his home in the UK but he made a point of resisting attempts at alterations. When the canopy over the west balcony was in danger of collapsing, builders suggested it be torn down but Podmore resisted. Even after the 750-gallon water tank on the flat roof burst during a cold snap - flooding the house - he declined to make wholesale challenges.
However, as these pictures show, the house was in dire need of repair and replacement. Window frames were rotten, water was getting in and pipes - including the original underfloor heating system - were corroding. Nevertheless, it was this reluctance to change than ensured the survival of the house's period features. After a visit in the late 1990s, the then President of the Twentieth Century Society, John Harris, described it as one of the most intact 1930's houses he had seen.
All this meant that, by the time John Podmore died and his sister sold it, the new owners of Les Lumières took on a house that was substantially unchanged from the one that Grayson designed in 1934.