The Grey House at 85 Swains Lane is set over four floors with balconies, terraces and a sizable sliding glass rooflight enabling the top floor to become (almost) an open-air space. It sits high on Highgate Hill, facing South (and with views of London in the winter). It is encased on three sides by Highgate cemetery, arguably London's greatest and most beautiful Victorian cemetery, and the burial place of Karl Marx, Michael Faraday and the late, great Douglas Adams.
The South and West elevations, which overlook the cemetery are largely glazed, filling the interior with natural light. The internal walls are mainly of warm grey planked concrete, and the floors a mixture of black granite and glass. The street façade of is black granite, translucent glass and black steel panels.
From the inside the house has excellent natural light. In the summer it is surrounded by the intense greenery of the cemetery, visited by squirrels, tawny owls and the occasional parakeet. After leaf fall the the London Skyline appears and the house oversees a Dickensian landscape of monuments staked out by foxes and, at times, blanketed by snow.
The house is energy efficient. The heat response characteristics of the concrete slow heat gain in summer and limit heat loss in winter, whilst the South-facing situation means that passive solar gain is maximised during winter months, keeping energy use down as far as possible. The green sedum roof reduces energy loss and flowers in the summer, attracting bees and butterflies.
The house is used for filming and photoshoots by arrangement with its agents. It featured recently in the BBC’s ‘Silent Witness’.
It is also a family home, and so sadly is not available for events, tours or private parties.