img(height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="")

Photograph: Shrubs Wood, quintessential modern house of 1930s Britain

Valeria Carullo

Dell & Wainwright’s photograph of the Grade II-listed, modernist house by Eric Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff highlights the dramatic shadows cast by its elegant stair

Shrubs Wood, Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire, 1933-34.
Shrubs Wood, Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire, 1933-34. Credit: Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Collections

Stairs are among the most photogenic parts of a building, and objects of endless fascination for photographers. Images of stairs often feature interesting geometric patterns and rhythmic repetition of elements – or dramatic cast shadows, as seen in this photograph of Shrubs Wood taken by the talented Dell & Wainwright, official photographers of the Architectural Review in the 1930s. The house was designed by Eric Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff, the only domestic project realised by the partnership apart from 64 Old Church Street in Chelsea. Shrubs Wood is situated in an old cherry orchard on high ground to allow views of the surrounding landscape. Built in reinforced concrete over two floors, it has a long narrow plan but is larger than usual for modern houses of the 1930s. The interior has retained all its original fitted furniture and panelling – both the house and grounds have in fact undergone very few alterations and are now Grade II* listed. As a quintessential modern British house of the 1930s, Shrubs Wood has been featured in two episodes of the TV series Agatha Christie’s Poirot.