Is there a particularly elegant house in your neighbourhood that makes you crane your neck every time you pass? Ever watched workmen in your street and wondered what magic they are working behind the front door? Just really like having a look around other people’s houses? Let’s face it, if you’re passionate about interior design then you’ll have an above-average level of curiosity about the inside of other people’s homes. Leading interiors magazine Livingetc understands this better than most, and this May and June they are acting as enablers to curious design fans keen for a snoop at other people’s style.
Image: Simon Brown
They’ve created the Livingetc House Tours, now in its fourth year, to offer design fans the opportunity to see inside some of the magazine’s favourite homes in the capital. Three tours covering North, West and North West London offer exclusive access to beautifully renovated and decorated properties, many of which have been featured in the magazine. As House Editor of the magazine, Mary Weaver is used to spending her days sifting through some of the most desirable homes in the country, organising and overseeing the shoots and meeting the owners. It was her daunting responsibility to curate the tours – as well as persuade owners to let complete strangers file through their homes for the day. “Some say yes right away,” explains Mary, who has plenty of experience at building a rapport with homeowners. “I tend to get an instinctive feel for the answer before I’ve even asked. Others hum and ha for a bit but we have so many reasons for why it’s a good idea. It’s in support of charity – Crisis – and it’s a great way of showing off their home if they’re a designer or architect – or simply for the hell of it!”
Image: Jake Curtis
Planning the routes – the tours are ‘self-guided’ so travel between properties is kept to a minimum – and having a mix of styles is key to a successful tour. “I try to have an overall balance between elegant, colourful, eclectic, more pared back,” says Mary, “and we try to work the route so visitors see a contrasting style from the previous house as they travel around. All the houses are considerably ‘wow’ and all are very ‘London’ not suburban. They are generally period town houses – Georgian or Victorian mainly – with contemporary–eclectic interiors.”
Image: Mel Yates
Like any good curator Mary is reluctant to reveal any favourites from the tour. “It’s a bit like having children – I love them all the same! But in my job I do get fond of certain owners and their homes, and I love seeing the reaction of the readers when they see homes that have appeared in the mag in glorious living, breathing, reality.” But what about the owners? Leaving your home open to even the most genteel visitors must involve a lot of trust in Mary and her team? “I have plenty of testimonials from previous owners saying what an all-round good experience it is. And visitors love to see all the revealing, personal touches. They adore to hear about paint colours, design items of furniture, but they also like to peak at what books owners have on their shelves or products in the bathroom.”
Image: Simon Brown
Obviously an expert in the powers of persuasion, as well as a tastemaker, would Mary herself allow her own home to be the subject of a tour? “Ha – my house is about to undergo a top-to-toe renovation this year, so possibly next year,” she says. “As long as it’s up to Livingetc standards when it’s finished.”
Image: Debi Treloar
Livingetc House Tours take place on 8 and 15 May and 12 June 2015. Tickets cost £32 per person and can be booked here.