Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Hoover Building

As I discover more of our little corner of west London I thought I'd share one of the most amazing buildings local to me (and to Perdita): The Hoover Building, factory headquarters of Hoover vacuum cleaners from the 1930s. Completed in the early 30s, it was one of several high Art Deco buildings designed by the architects Wallis, Gilbert & Partners. Over the coming months I'm hoping to visit some more of their creations - in fact there's a whole Golden Mile of Art Deco architecture to be discovered, though this is perhaps the finest example.

During the Second World War the factory was given over to war production, manufacturing electrical equipment for aircraft and tanks. It operated 24 hours a day, with employees working shifts. The buildings were painted and camouflaged with netting to avoid being spotted and bombed by German aircraft. During the blitz a lookout post was set up on the roof.

The building is constructed from a special kind of concrete that doesn't discolour with age but stays gleaming white (I seem to remember reading about it in a Bill Bryson book recently), with accents in classic Deco green. The dramatic grand entrance is decorated with brightly-coloured faience in a design inspired by Egyptian motifs - all the rage throughout the Deco era. Isn't it incredible? It's just fabulous - I wish I could show you all the amazing details - the sunburst design on the side doors, the curved cornerstone with radiating tile decoration, the lotus blossom inspired floodlights (which illuminate the building soft green at night).

In honour of the architecture I tried to put together my most Art Deco looking outfit, but I don't really have anything 1930s. I thought this asymmetrical jacket had at least an air of 30s style about it, but clearly I need more 1930s clothes.

Another of Wallis Gilbert & Partners' architectural triumphs, the Firestone factory, was scandalously demolished in 1980, after its greedy, disgusting, dispicable owners heard it was going to gain protected listed status which would have saved it. It makes me sick to think of it. Luckily it seems that at least the event spurred the council into action, and the Hoover Building was granted listed status the same year.

Randomly, Tesco supermarket gave the site a new lease of life when it purchased the building in 1989. Working closely with English Heritage, they restored the main building and built the supermarket behind it in matching Art Deco style (they did a grand job!). The main building is all offices, currently unoccupied and available to let (do you think if all the vintage girls of London pooled our resources we could have a huge vintage office complex to share? How awesome would that be?!).

The lettering on the building facade originally read "Hoover Limited".

Outfit details: Hat, etsy; Jacket, hand-me-down; Ice skates plastic brooch, ebay; Tweed skirt, Hobbs c2004; Shoes, charity shop (originally New Look); Leather gloves, Christmas present from Mummy; Necklace, birthday present many years ago from my sister.

I was thinking the Hoover building would make a wonderful set for a Poirot episode, only to be told that it was indeed once used, for the 1989 filming of "The Dream" (also called "What Comes of Dreams") - the same episode, coincidentally, as features Miss Lemon's most famous cardigan. There are exterior and interior shots (though many of the interior shots are clearly in a completely different building), including one of the night-time illuminations.


  1. Oh, how I love this building! Such a beautiful example of Art Deco architecture. It's not very often that I sing Tesco's praises, but this is definitely one such occasion. Hopefully one day I'll get to check it out.

    I'd never get bored working in the Hoover Building, I can tell you! And an office in it full of London's vintage girls? You could count me in! ;-) You look thrillingly Thirties in that outfit, if I may say so.

  2. Oooh lovely day out. I've always wanted to visit & never managed it. I think this is the year though!! Fabulous outfit as always xxx

  3. When my husband first saw it he called it the Poiret Building!

    Haha, if we rented that office, everyone could come round to mine for tea!

    I love the building, both for being wonderful and right next to my house, AND for being a 'good' supermarket (i.e. well stocked, polite staff etc'). Sadly I don't think I have ever graced its doors looking as glam as you do in those shots. Hurrah for Hoover!

  4. Typo: Poirot. :/ Need more coffee...

  5. What a marvellous building it is, would love to see it, you look amazing, too.

    Might I be nosey and enquire about skirt sizes? I quite often look at Hobbs skirts on e bay, but I haven't a clue about size. I have a 32 waist/42 hip, some M and S can fit at a 14, 16 tends sometimes to be loose. Where do Hobbs come in on sizing?
    Ta xx

    1. Hobbs sizing tends to run large in my experience, so you'll probably be alright with the 14.

      xx Charlotte

  6. Such a stunning building - and a outfit to match!!

  7. We have a small sports stadium here in Little Rock, Arkansas that is in the Art Deco style. Not nearly as grand as what you have in London, though! I read about the Hoover building & the Firestone buildings in a book on art deco. Gorgeous things & your photos are fabulous. Thanks so much for sharing them with us & for all the vintage wardrobe knowledge. :-) You keep me inspired!

  8. One of my favourites too. I scared the living daylights out of my husband when we approached it on the way to visit friends in Muswell Hill by shrieking, "Oh my goodness!!!!" He was driving, so not too pleased with my dramatics!

    Is it easy to get close then? I always wondered.



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