Shuko Oda On The Mid Century Pieces

While waiting for the launch of the third issue of our magazine next month, we are sharing some selected stories from issue 2. Shuko Oda, chef and co-founder of Koya, a udon noodle bar with spots in Soho and the city, reflects here on the design of her mid-century mansion in south-east London. Subscribe to our magazine to receive issues 2 and 3 at your door.

“My husband Nick and I were living in Peckham when we decided to buy a house together. We didn’t go to Forest Hill much, but we had always noticed the beautiful 1960s houses whenever we passed on the bus.

“The house is located on a cul-de-sac in a wooded area and was built between 1959 and 1962. Nick likes to collect things; for a long time it was mid-century objects and furniture. Our one-bed flat in Peckham had enough stuff to fill an entire house. When we arrived here, I knew we had found the perfect place for our pieces.

“There are a number of things that we particularly like about the house: the glass “wall” that overlooks the garden from the living room, bringing the outside, and the common area at the front where everyone on the street gathers in the summer and the children play and grow up together. There is a real sense of community, with everyone appreciating and recognizing the place where we all live.

“One of my favorite pieces in the house is our extendable teak dining table, designed by John and Sylvia Reid for deer furniture in the 1960s. it’s from their S series, which was recently reissued, but ours is original. We love the combination of colors and materials, and the simplicity of the design. The frame is made of tubular steel legs with a teak top, and we have the matching chairs, which have a teak backrest and leather upholstered chairs.

“I love to sit at the table, drink tea or coffee and look out into the garden, which is very green and overflow with large mature trees. This is often my only moment of calm during an otherwise hectic day.

“The dining table is the place where a large part of our life takes place. I try to make sure that we all have breakfast together at home, which my parents always made time for when I grew up in Japan. If it’s a working day, it’s just coffee and toast.

“On weekends, we sometimes prepare a traditional Japanese breakfast, with rice, miso soup, pickled umeboshi plums, grilled fish, a fried egg or a little ham and natto, which is fermented soy. Sometimes it’s just pancakes.

“When we invite people to eat, I prefer it to be on a Saturday so that I can fully relax on Sunday. I love cooking Middle Eastern dishes at the moment, so a typical meal will consist of four or five vegetable dishes such as sumac tomatoes, fried eggplant dip, roasted vegetables with yogurt, green sauce and dukkah, followed by pistachios and rose petal ice cream.

“We were very lucky with this place because many other houses on this road had been renovated and their original features removed, while ours is practically intact. All the changes made over the years seem to have been implemented sensitively. This means that we still have features like the chest of drawers in the main living space downstairs. It’s the perfect setting for pieces like the Philips desk lamp, which Nick says was designed by Louis Kalff in the 1950s.

“Upstairs, the landing has three glass panels that extend along the entire length of the staircase. Again, these are original and mean that the house feels light and open-many people take the panels to make room for a private bathroom.

“I like the fact that our rooms all have a story, and how the House matches or enhances that. The stabile we have below, for example, comes from a little-known constructivist artist named Raymond Elston, who exhibited in Adrian Heath’s studio in the early 1950s, with Victor Pasmore, Kenneth Martin, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson. We bought it 15 years ago from a dealer in Camden Passage; everyone loves the way the shadows dance and move on the wall when the garden door is open and the air is circulating in the house.

“Next to the stabile is a small wooden sculpture of an organic shape by a Japanese artist I know, Masaya Hashimoto. He married a close friend and they moved to a Buddhist shrine in the hills outside Tokyo some time ago. There is a workshop and usually makes very beautiful bone sculptures, but the last time we visited them at home, he showed us all these wooden shapes he was working on. They are so smooth and tactile that Nick and I immediately wanted one.

“Unfortunately, stability and sculpting must be maintained at a high level, as they are too tempting for our children to touch. One day they will come down, I think.”

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