True Colors: Historical Paint Expert Pedro da Costa Felgueiras’ Beautifully Idiosyncratic London Home

Most people wouldn’t call a centuries-old home that had been abandoned for 30 years and had no roof, no working electricity, and no reliable plumbing a “dream house.” But Pedro da Costa Felgueiras is not like most people. The Portuguese-born Londoner is a hot-shot expert on historical paints and pigments (see T Magazine‘s profile of him here), and where most of us would have seen a tear-down, he saw his next project, one that would unite his professional life with his personal.

“When I first started restoring it I was like a kid in a sweet shop—it was so exciting,” he told the Modern House. “I loved the process of doing it and put a lot of love and time into it. I would work on the house from 8 am until 4 pm and then go to my studio from 4 pm until midnight.”

The project took years to complete; Felgueiras wasn’t able to actually move into the modest Georgian townhouse, located in the Spitalfields neighborhood of East London, until two years after the purchase. And it would take another three years before it was completely done. The restoration included insulating the roof, rewiring the electricity, adding underfloor heating, and, generally, prodding the building into the 21st century.

When it came to the paints, though, he was singularly focused on bringing it back to centuries past. He used his new old home as a workshop of sorts to recreate lost colors, painstakingly hand-blending them, using linseed oil and age-old methods (think mortar and pestle), into historically accurate hues. Whereas modern acrylic paints never change, his, like the paints from centuries ago, do: “They don’t just fade, they actually change,” Felgueiras told the Times. “Which is part of their beauty.”

Join us for a tour of his soulful home, in living, ever-changing color.

Photography courtesy of The Modern House.

Pedro da Costa Felgueiras in Modern House, Exterior Above: Felgueiras and his dog, Rita, in front of his Georgian-period home in East London.
Pedro da Costa Felgueiras in Modern House, Kitchen Above: The modest kitchen on the ground floor features ochre paint on the cabinets, a color that shows up again in other parts of the home.
Pedro da Costa Felgueiras in Modern House, Fireplace Above: Rita sits in front of the fireplace in the back room, which also includes the kitchen, just outside the frame on the right. It’s Felgueiras’ favorite spot in the house. The door into this room is painted Caput mortuum (Latin for “dead head”).
Pedro da Costa Felgueiras in Modern House, Dining Room Above: The pale lavender on the walls in the dining room is a mix of cochineal (a red pigment made in part from crushed South American beetles, according to the Times) and blue verditer (a pigment from the 17th century that he sources from an elderly Englishman who hand-mixes it). Felgueiras would later use the same shade in Strawberry Hill House, a Gothic Revival villa he helped to restore. The bookbinder blinds are from Marianna Kennedy.
Above: The parlor is painted the same shade of lavender.
Pedro da Costa Felgueiras in Modern House, Hallway Above: A narrow hall leads to a small garden in the back of the house.
Pedro da Costa Felgueiras in Modern House, Bedroom Above: The palette in this bedroom echoes the one in the kitchen. Felgueiras was mindful of not only using historical paints but also adhering to period-appropriate building techniques when possible. For instance, the walls were built using a traditional lath and plaster (mixed with horse hair) technique.
Pedro da Costa Felgueiras in Modern House, Bedroom Above: He may have been meticulous about preserving the bones of the building, but he wasn’t slavish when it came to the decor. The framed work over the fireplace is from Marianna Kennedy.
Pedro da Costa Felgueiras in Modern House, Blue Hallway Above: His favorite dash of color in the house: the blue verditer painted onto handmade sheets of paper from Griffen Mill in Ireland. He had been testing out the color for the Strawberry Hill House project but ended up keeping it up in his home.
Pedro da Costa Felgueiras in Modern House, Bedroom Above: A bedroom on the top floor. Note the artful placement of the bedside sconces.
Pedro da Costa Felgueiras in Modern House, Bathroom Above: An ensuite bath, with rooftop views.
Pedro da Costa Felgueiras in Modern House, Bathroom Above: On the other side of the bathtub.
Pedro da Costa Felgueiras in Modern House, Garden Above: The way to the garden. At the far end is Felgueiras’ studio, where he mixes his paints.
Pedro da Costa Felgueiras in Modern House, Studio Shed Above: Inside his studio. “I love old techniques because they require a different way of thinking. It’s about going back to basics, I suppose, having respect for the environment and spending the time to think more deliberately,” he told the Modern House.
Pedro da Costa Felgueiras in Modern House, Garden Above: The view from the backyard toward the house. Felgueiras loves to garden and can often be found here in the warmer months.

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