Mulberry House, 36 Smith Square, Westminster, London
Briefly mentioned in the Summer 2015 newsletter as having come on to the market for £25m, Mulberry House, which was built in 1911, is still for sale at an adjusted guide price of £17m. This remarkable reduction illustrates the significant effect the increase in Stamp Duty Land Tax has had on properties at the top end of the market and the way buyers are taking their time to adjust to this new tax environment. Nevertheless, this 11,720-sq ft, Grade II-listed house remains one of the most interesting, luxurious, desirable properties currently available in central London.
Lutyens designed it for Reginald McKenna who was married to Pamela Jekyll, daughter of Herbert and Agnes Jekyll and niece of Gertrude Jekyll and Lady Horner. McKenna, a Liberal MP who became Chancellor of the Exchequer and later chairman of the Midland Bank, was one of Lutyens’s most loyal clients. (He also designed Park House in Mells, Somerset, Halnaker Park in Sussex, plus numerous Midland Bank buildings for McKenna.) Mulberry House has Neo-Georgian elevations of grey and red brick with ashlar dressings under a tiled mansard roof. It is located on the corner of Smith Square and Dean Trench Street, and its interior features a suite of grand entertaining rooms. The house passed to Henry Mond MP, later Baron Melchett and heir to ICI, who had the interior extensively redecorated in 1930 in the Art Deco style.
While the original layout remained, the interior was embellished to the designs of architect Darcy Braddell. The staircase was remodelled to a cantilevered oval rising an extra storey, the dining room was lined with travertine stone and the drawing room was decorated with murals painted on silver foil by Glyn Philpot, the room’s main focus being a bronze sculpture by Charles Sargeant Jagger, known as Scandal (now in the permanent collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum). Scandal was commissioned by Mond and his wife Gwen as a humorous reference to their ménage à trois with the author Gilbert Cannan and to class prejudices of the day. It depicts the ostensibly guilty couple standing naked before outraged onlookers, their hands raised in horror.
Around this time, Jagger also collaborated with Lutyens in New Delhi, producing magnificent, Mughal-style elephant sculptures at Viceroy’s House. In 1931, Lutyens also commissioned Jagger to create a sculpture of Christ the King for Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, although this was never realised.
The current owners of Mulberry House have refurbished and modernised it: they have installed a lift and state-of-the-art lighting. It includes seven bedroom suites, a panelled library, gym, roof terrace and staff quarters. For sale through Dexters.