Guiding at Goldfinger's

Your first thought might be of our hero 007 lying bound in a state of testicular anxiety as the laser beam slices closer.

The truth of the Fleming connection will disappoint the fanciful, but for some it adds a frisson to a visit to Erno Goldfinger's home in Hampstead, North London.

The architectural style caused a frisson too, as elements of Hampstead society struggled with a design at 2 Willow Road that was anathema to their beliefs in what constituted good taste.

73 years after the completion of the house, and with last season seeing more than 11,000 visitors, this modernist house, provided to the National Trust via transfer to the Government in lieu of death duties, continues to fascinate.

A National Trust guide prepares to take a visitor group inside the house

To appreciate 2 Willow Road fully, you need to visit it. Trying to narrate a tour through the written word will not suffice. Apart from anything, strict copyright controls covering the extensive artwork and sculpture mean that visitors cannot take photographs, so the pleasure of the contents of the house can only be properly enjoyed in person.

But perhaps someone who does guided tours at the house as part of the strong volunteer team could give a taster, and (but of course with permission from the house custodian) sneak a few photos with shots that are not copyright sensitive.

The entrance hall might not excite. The ceiling is relatively low, and despite some talkworthy artwork including an erotic surrealist piece, the visitor wonders what else there is further back on this level – the answer  is given by the guide.

We ascend to the first floor, via the spiral staircase that is a key structural feature of the house...

Aesthetically pleasing; structurally significant
The view from the dining-room

....and the house opens out. The visitor looks out from the wide expanse of window fronting the edge of Hampstead Heath. Artwork and objets trouvés abound as we regard the dining room.

We peer under the dining room table. From what is that base made?

Your guess?

And the visitor might marvel over the meals that were cooked by Ursula Goldfinger, Erno’s wife, out of the kitchen (not shown).

Into the studio, or perhaps it’s not right to talk rigidly of moving from one room to another.  This is a house of partitioning, and Erno embraced the concept of flexible living spaces.

A desk dominates the study. Whose is it, and what do we think of those cunningly cantilevered drawers?

Inspiration for later mass-produced designs?

In another part of the study, here is a shot of original Goldfinger lever arch files. We are in a home that lives through its preserved contents.

Papers easily to hand

In the sitting room there is scarcely a shot that could be taken without photographing that as shall not be photographed. But here is a shot where you can deduce the top of a TV, an example of the running theme of uplighting in the house, and the hint of a portrait.

Who might that figure be?

And here is Erno’s study.

An environment for some serious work

Up a further flight of circular stairs and into the master bedroom. A low bed of the Japanese style admired by Erno.

Not too far down to search for your slippers

And an en suite bathroom, custom designed for the needs of the master and mistress of the house, with bath of suitable length for Erno’s height.

Made to measure

Skipping over the guest bedroom and shared bathroom and toilet, finally a multi-functional room at the back – at one time a nursery; at another time grandma’s bedroom/sitting room; now a special exhibition room. Complete with view over the garden, the main central one being for 2 Willow Road with smaller ones for Nos. 1 and 3 on either side.

A well-kept garden

What is missed from this pen portrait?; sculptures; more.custom-designed furniture. One could name drop with Duchamp; Ernst; Moore; Penrose; Riley. But more than anything else, a narrative alone cannot deliver the feeling for what was a family home for over 50 years.

Come and visit us if you can.

The author is a City of London, City of Westminster and National Trust Guide, and former law firm partner, who does regular house tours of 2 Willow Road.