HomeLifestyleHome & Garden
Art Deco vs. ultra-modern: The great James Corden debate

Art Deco vs. ultra-modern: The great James Corden debate

5 min read

Do you love Art Deco or do you prefer a sleek modern look? We dive into the debate sparked by James Corden's plans to demolish iconic Art Deco building Templecome House
James Corden from Gavin and Stacey and The Late Late Show fame is the celebrity equivalent of Marmite—you love him or, well, let’s just say that he isn’t your cup of tea. Most recently he’s come back into the spotlight over plans to demolish Templecombe House in Oxfordshire, a 1960s Art Deco-style house built in the 1860s, planning to replace it with an ultra-modern mansion.
Templecombe House is a stunning property, dripping with charm and rumoured to have been built to a Frank Lloyd Wright design. Unfortunately, the building has fallen into disrepair after being left for quite some time. In contrast, the ultra-modern mansion is an American phenomenon. Most closely associated with LA celebrity culture and high society, these mansions are considered by some to be more of an eyesore than an architectural marvel—so much so that LA realtors struggle to sell them. Seemingly, Brits don’t tend to want them.
"Art Deco as a style isn’t going away, nor should it"
Older properties are preferred by many Brits: one-fifth of us want a property with traditional aesthetics, and with more than one in five British properties being built pre-1915, Brits aren’t switching to ultra-modern anytime soon. This begs the question: “Why replace period homes when you have the money to restore them?”
Art Deco as a style isn’t going away, nor should it. The millennial and Gen-Z demographics in particular have embraced Art Deco with open arms, seeing 61.m hashtags for Art Deco properties on Instagram alone, as well as 65.2k posts on capturing heritage aesthetics on TikTok.
No ultra-modern mansion could ever best the timeless charm of an authentic art-deco home, so to learn more about this subject, we spoke to The Heritage Window Company for their perspective on the situation.

The ultra-modern celebrity obsession

James Corden moving back to the UK from the US and bringing his ultra-modern comforts with him isn’t anything new. Lots of British celebs have emigrated to LA, only to do a Dorothy and realise that there really is no place like home.
The likes of Idris Elba, David Beckham, the Osbornes and Harry Styles have all moved back to the UK in recent years. Some keep their Stateside style, like Elba with his swanky £2.5m Hackney flat, and others return to the UK’s heritage aesthetics, like Harry Styles and his £10.9m Grade II-listed home in Hampstead Heath.
"The decision to renovate not only comes down to personal taste, but to respecting the cultural significance of older properties"
The difference between these situations is that Styles, Elba and all of the celebrities mentioned avoided UK properties that were at risk of having plans amended by Heritage England due to lavish additions or more extreme building plans.
The decision to renovate or replace not only comes down to personal taste, but also time, place and respecting the cultural significance of older properties.
Kevin Brown, managing director at The Heritage Window Company, had this to say about Art Deco heritage properties: “Heritage properties are well sought after—it’s something that we notice more and more every year, especially with more new builds popping up. When people are in a property that is proud of its cultural heritage and stylings, they feel closer connected to their roots. There’s a reason why #heritageproperties has so many posts on Insta—people love looking at them and so naturally they’d love living in one. These modern mansions can be an eyesore in a field, so I understand people’s frustrations with them!”

Why are art-deco properties so loved?

Art Deco has seen a resurgence in recent years, though truth be told, it never really went away. Art Deco began to see popular appeal roughly in the 1920s and late 1930s, as a culmination of British architectural design inspired partially by American commercialism. The earliest examples in the UK can be found in London, including the Hoover Building or the interiors of Selfridges.
West Tower of the Hoover Building in Ealing, London. Image: Ethan Doyle White, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
A century later, the cyclical nature of fashion has heralded a return to 1920s style that includes the spaces we live in. The zeal and sophistication of Art Deco is appealing in an age of flatpack furniture and UPVC, leading more to ask how they can achieve Art Deco style in their home.
“Art Deco home” was searched 1,581 times on Google in the last year alone, and the trend is expected to continue throughout 2024
“People love Art Deco because it is timeless, classy and can be used in a way which is both exciting and colourful or sleek and sophisticated,” says Kevin. “Whether it’s by adding black slimline sash windows to your home or injecting some bold patterns into your walls, it’s enough to give your home a considered design aesthetic.” 

To what extent are heritage properties protected?

In the case of Cordon and Templecombe House, permission was granted by the local council’s planning committee for his new home, complete with six bedrooms, after a comprehensive planning process was reviewed and consequently supported by Heritage England.
"Aspects of this plan were not approved, however"
Aspects of this plan were not approved, however. The proposal for a two-story pool building was removed after being rejected by English Heritage over concerns about its potential impact on a nearby druidic circle which is a listed monument. It is reported that a new proposal for a pool will be submitted soon.
This suggests alterations and planning permissions can take precedence over period properties if agreed by Heritage England, although this process is expensive and requires a great deal of legal acumen. So much so that in this instance it is understood that the application was submitted on Corden’s behalf by Atlantic Swiss Agency, a high-profile financial advice and management service.

Embracing tradition

It’s understandable to be put off by the time and effort it would take to completely renovate a period property that has fallen into disrepair—although the reward of this kind of project would be much more gratifying than a garish ultra-modern mansion. In contrast, some celebrities have embraced traditional stylings completely, renovating stunning heritage properties to include their contemporary home amenities.
Ricky Gervais, for example, owns a stunning £10.8m home in Hampstead Heath with his wife Jane. It’s cosy, minimalist and with all the original stylings intact—including a traditional fireplace and sash windows.
The Beckhams are another example of celebrities using their wealth to enjoy renovating a historic UK property, with their Holland Park Mansion worth approximately £31.5m and going under £8m worth of renovations.
Whichever way you cut it, there’s no denying that older properties are full of charm which many are keen to live in or replicate.
“Sometimes the old ways really are the best,” comments Kevin. “Heritage properties that embrace their Art Deco roots illicit such a strong feeling and it’s one that I’m sure we’ll still be seeing in another hundred years’ time.”
The Heritage Window Company is a leading manufacturer of traditional-style replacement double windows
Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter