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Modernist master Serge Chermayeff’s Sussex home given Grade II listing

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Ministers have granted heritage protection to an early Modernist house in Sussex designed and lived in by Serge Chermayeff

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport listed Bentley Wood in Lewes at Grade II in line with advice from Historic England.

Completed in 1938, the building is considered to have both architectural and historical significance.

Historic England said Bentley Wood was one of a small number of Modernist timber houses built in England during the 1930s, reflecting ‘a romantic turn’ in the genre.

The heritage body added that the building was ‘rigorously rectilinear and carefully proportioned’ and said its ‘unaffected play of volume and structure’ defined it as a key work of progressive interwar English modernism.

Chermayeff, born in Russia in 1900, was educated in London and accepted into the RIBA in the early 1930s.

His partnership with Erich Mendelsohn, a refugee from the Nazis, led to a number of highly respected projects, including the Grade I-listed De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill in East Sussex.

The partnership dissolved in 1936 and Chermayeff continued in practice as an architect until the outbreak of the Second World War.

Bentley Wood was completed in 1938 and shortly afterwards Chermayeff moved to the USA. He later became president of the Institute of Design in Chicago and went on to teach at Harvard and Yale.

Local practice ABQ Studio completed a refurbishment of Bentley Wood in 2018.

Historic England director for London and the South East Emily Gee said: ‘Bentley Wood is a key building designed by a major figure in English Modernism and over 80 years later is still a striking contemporary home.

‘It has served as inspiration for generations of architects, critics and fans of the modern movement and its special interest is being celebrated and recognised by it being added to the list.’

Chermayeff died in 1996. 

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