Today, technology integrated into houses is fairly common place, especially in luxury homes. Properties can now be run by computers controlling heating, cooling, security, lighting, solar shading, audio and visual devices – its all out there, and you can spend some serious money on it too. Furthermore they can all be remotely run via the internet or on an App on your phone, so you can see whats happening from anywhere in the world.
Back in the 1960’s clearly things were very different. Except that is for a modest and understated home nestled in the heart of Mayfair, belonging to the racing legend Sir Stirling Moss.
Stirling Moss was the first British driver to win a Formula One British Grand Prix, in a British built car back in 1957, at the peak of his racing career. The car was a Vanwall and the location wasn’t Silverstone, as you might expect. For that year the race was hosted at Aintree in Liverpool, alongside the Horse racing circuit. Sadly Moss suffered a massive crash in 1962 which resulted in his early retirement from F1, but in those days he was seriously lucky to survive. In the 1950’s some 15 F1 drivers were killed, followed by 12 more in the 60’s. The racing was as much about surviving then as it was about winning! Thankfully the sport is far safer these days, with the last death in F1 being the great Ayrton Senna in 1994.
Back in 1961 Moss acquired a world war bomb damaged plot of land in Mayfair for £5000. He had the option to purchase an adjoining hotel as well, but didn’t. He built a 2500 sq.ft. house over 5-storeys for £25,000. He had a heavy influence in the design of his house and integrated as much innovation as he could. Today Moss is 83 and still resides at the same house. Its estimated to be worth at least £6-8m.
The house includes; an automated bath, an electro-hydraulic dining table that can move from the kitchen on one floor directly down into the dining room on the floor below, and a letter tray which transports post from his office directly to his wife’s. The large windows on the small street are mirrored for privacy. But my favorite innovation, albeit installed more recently, is the carbon fibre lift, which was built for him by the Williams F1 team. In his office he sits on a classic Charles Eames lounge chair. Here is a man who has had a lifelong obsession with innovation, technology and attention to detail, before the rest of the world really knew about it.
I recently visited the street he lives on to have a look at his house. Although its tucked into a corner at the end of a narrow street, its easy to spot thanks to two metal car pictures on the wall. This somewhat lesser-known and quiet area of Mayfair, in between Green Park and Park Lane, seems to enjoy a thriving micro-community of independent shops and bars, much like other parts of central London I know. These little gems are great places to experience, especially in the rush of central London generally. Mayfair is named after the annual two-week fair in May which took place there. Other notable residents of Mayfair include Architect Robert Adam, son of William Adam, and telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell, amongst many more.
One of Moss’ favorite cars is the classic Mercedes 300SL Gullwing of the of 1950’s. Around this time my wife’s Grandfather had a prestige Mayfair car dealership called Brooklands Motor’s of Bond Street and they sold that particular model of Mercedes. I wonder if they ever met? In 2009 Mercedes launched a limited edition model called the SLR Stirling Moss, only 75 were made.
According to Moss’ website, he is currently at design stage for a refurbishment of his Mayfair home, it will be interesting to see how this looks. At 83, he actively maintains a property company, renting houses/ flats in London and has various other interests, including being a narrator for the children’s TV programme Rory the Racing car, alongside Peter Kay.
So there you have another fusion of architecture and Formula one, along with the magic of Mayfair and a true British racing legend with an early eye for innovation, technology and attention to detail. Huge respect to you Sir Stirling, for both your racing achievements and your lifelong pursuit of innovation.
As a footnote; I’d like to say thank you to the various people who have commented on my blog recently. I’ve had some great feedback and its good to know people are enjoying reading my perspective.