575 Wandsworth Road is an ordinary house that has been transformed into an extraordinary work of art.
Externally unassuming, this ‘two-up two-down’ (ie 2 main rooms on the ground floor and 2 bedrooms upstairs) terraced house built in early 1800s contains within it one of the most unexpected, unique and joyous customised interiors you could possibly imagine. It is the single-handed work of its owner Khadambi Asalache, a well-travelled Kenyan poet, author, philosopher of mathematics and civil servant who had studied both architecture and fine art.
He bought the former squat in 1981 after seeing it for sale whilst on the top of the #77 bus on his way to work. It suffered from damp and after attempting several ways of solving this, his solution was to up-cycle some old wooden boards he found in a rubbish skip and put them over the affected wall. He decided to decorate these strips and from there, he went on to spend the next 20 years embellishing almost every wall, ceiling and door in the house with an exquisite fretwork of patterns and motifs, which he hand-carved from reclaimed pine doors and floorboards found in skips.
His inspiration came from sources such as the Great Mosque of Cordoba, the Alhambra and Generalife in Granada, doors in Zanzibar, panelled interiors in Damascus, and waterside houses or yalı in Istanbul. Floors and ceilings were hand painted, incorporating his unique imagination into the spaces of the tracery he so lovingly crafted.
Using only a pad saw blade Stanley knife, he carved his intricate fretwork out in his garden, striving to achieve balance and harmony in all of his designs rather than perfect symmetry.
I have added a few pictures I pinched from the internet as I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures myself; he was very much against photographs and preferred people to just take in his artwork. How refreshing!
The house was left exactly has he had it when he died in 2006, complete with a rich and varied collection of everything from Ethiopian Coptic crosses to pressed-glass inkwells, pink and copper lustreware, postcards and his typewriter.
If ever there was an idiosyncratic testament to the desire of one man to create a home unlike any other in London, this is it.
Good job he never had any kids!
Well worth a visit.