Hmmn... wondering at this moment, what is the sex of my house?
read further on How to tell the sex of a building.
How do you determine the sex of a house? This somewhat ridiculous question appeared on the invitation to a talk and exhibition at Sir John Soane’s Museum in London. It was certainly a good way to encourage a hoard of people to make their way across Lincoln’s Inn Fields in the biting cold – the sponsors, upmarket building company Symm, must have been delighted with the turnout.
Unlike boats, houses aren’t always girls. The sex of a classical building, according to Dr Jerzy Kierkuc-Bielinski, the curator of the exhibition, depends upon its order (Doric is masculine, Ionic is feminine and Corinthian is slightly confused). But with other buildings, the answer is open to debate. Modernist buildings are considered to be asexual by some and male by others, and with vernacular buildings, or Victorian or Edwardian, gender isn’t particularly relevant. “There are so many other things going on,” said Dr Kierkuc-Bielinski.
I’d committed to the trees (and lugged 20 metres of them across London) by the time I visited interior designer Nicky Haslam’s latest venture on Monday. Haslam, who has designed interiors for Rod Stewart and Rupert Everett, has fitted out two penthouses in Mayfair that are soon to appear on the lettings market for £25,000 a week. They have views over Hyde Park, towards Canary Wharf, and according to lettings agent Gary Hersham of Beauchamp Estates, “they’re not the usual over the top, flamboyant product churned out by top-end residential developers”. He expects them to be snapped up by a film director or someone from the Middle East (the king of Saudi Arabia would be a neighbour). “There’s nothing of this specification and size (5,000 sq/m each) on the rental market,” he says.
If you ask me, the apartments are more over the top and flamboyant than any of the neutral interiors I’ve seen recently, with black-and-white front doors, onyx marble bathrooms and red lacquer paintwork. Nicky Haslam, who believes that a building has a sex, felt that these gigantic spaces were overtly masculine. “There’s not a hint of a floral,” he says proudly. But he doesn’t shy away from the feminine completely: an Ionic-style dining table, for example, and red velvet chairs. “You can hint at femininity without it being feminine. This is how you create an understated elegance.”
Ed Mead of Douglas & Gordon, who strongly believes houses are all asexual and should be referred to as “it”, concedes that a touch of femininity can be a good thing when trying to sell a house. By far the best properties he sells, apparently, are those modernised and designed by gay men.