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/ by Oliver Bennett

London's architecture: Art Deco

Balham SW12 is a highly agreeable south London suburb that’s adjacent to no fewer than four leafy commons and has an abundance of solid family homes. But Balham enjoys another claim to fame in the shape of Du Cane Court. This vast Art Deco edifice is a period gem, with a lobby that’s like a dream cruise liner, plus curved walls and metal Crittall windows that allow its substantial flats to be infused with light. But it’s Du Cane’s history that makes this block a real conversation piece.

Firstly, with 676 flats it’s reckoned to be the largest private block of flats in Europe. Secondly, it was designed as ‘all-inclusive’, with restaurant, bar, shop and club on site. Thirdly, Du Cane Court is so big that some believe it was used as a navigating point by German pilots during the Blitz.

Folklore, of course. But Du Cane is still terribly grand, from its lighted entrance to its Japanese gardens. Its enigmatic name comes from Huguenot property owners called the Du Canes, who owned the land upon which it was built, and the only self-effacing note is its address: 193A Balham High Road, London SW12.

Elements of Art Deco style: grand foyer with black and white marble flooring; metal Crittall windows; Bakelite door handles; curved balconies; leaded light windows above front door; Japanese gardens.

Illustration: Mister Maurao

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Oliver Bennett Freelance journalist

Journalist, Oliver Bennett lives in a late Victorian house in central London and specialises in property, architecture and the built environment. He has worked on several newspapers including the Independent, Telegraph and the Sunday Times, and has contributed to many more magazines from Grand Designs to Homes and Gardens. 

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