Outside a three-story residence in Shepherd’s Bush, London, the minivan and the fleet of kids’ bicycles are immediate signs that a visitor has arrived at the right address. But the 19th-century facade, punctuated by a glossy red door and a hanging lantern, only hints at the more unexpected world that lies behind an almost ordinary exterior.
Stepping through a citrus-hued hallway into a light-filled living room, the first impression the home conveys is a sense of openness, space, and color. One can see all the way through the ground floor to a glass atrium that in turn leads into a blooming garden. It is a transportive experience—much like suddenly entering a country retreat from the gray city sidewalks outside.
Landscape designer Catherine FitzGerald stands at the kitchen island chopping vegetables from her backyard. Her husband, actor Dominic West, has just come from a Bikram yoga class and is making coffee on the family’s large stove. “God, I hate it,” he sighs, “but I’ve got to get into shape.” West is one of the stars of the Showtime series The Affair, which centers on an extramarital dalliance and won the Golden Globe for Best TV Drama in February. In it, West often appears naked, so his preoccupation with his appearance in advance of the second season is wholly understandable. (The Affair returns to Showtime on October 2.)
As FitzGerald prepares a simple yet delicious lunch—roast chicken, a salad, and roasted red peppers with goat cheese—and discusses the day’s agenda with West, the couple’s youngest daughter, 18-month-old Cristabel, scampers between their legs. With three other children currently in London (West’s oldest daughter is away at boarding school), the daily pickup-and-afterschool routine calls for military precision. West may have become a showbiz commodity thanks to the 2002–2008 HBO series The Wire, but at home he is a hands-on family man.
Named after the sheepherders who once took their rest here on their way to the city’s Smithfield Market, Shepherd’s Bush today is a diverse neighborhood where Somali, Syrian, and West Indian immigrants mix with young British families looking for more space. Real estate prices are lower compared to those of central London’s most sought-after districts, including Kensal Rise, where FitzGerald and West used to live. As the family grew, however, the need for a bigger home became apparent. “We already knew people on this street,” Fitzgerald explains, “and we loved how wide and full of light it was. The gardens with their fruit trees were particularly special. When this area was a suburb of London, it used to provide produce for the markets.”
The couple fell in love with their future home as soon as they walked through the door. “The house was falling down, and the garden was overgrown,” says FitzGerald. “But it was magical in its feeling and bones—full of light and personality.” The 1840s structure had served as the home of another famous actor who had converted part of it into apartments for creative types; his widow chose West over the other potential buyers because of his affinity with her husband’s craft. Turning the building back into a single-family residence took place over the course of a year, most of which the family spent in South Africa, where West was filming a 2008 series called The Devil’s Whore. “We didn’t have an architect, and it was a bit haphazard,” FitzGerald admits. “But somehow it all came together.”
Expunging the former apartment layout gave the family carte blanche in reconfiguring the structure. The decision to put the master bedroom and bathroom on the second floor, in place of the former living room, stemmed from West’s desire to have their personal space be the one with the largest number of windows and the greatest dimensions. The ground floor, where the former owner’s bedroom was, became the central living area—a series of interlocking spaces that serve as kitchen, living room, playroom, and atrium-enclosed dining room. Several rooms are delineated by hanging fabric, which underscores the open connection and uninterrupted view. Tibetan prayer flags from West’s paragliding trip in the Himalayas are suspended between the kitchen and atrium; fairy lights twinkle over the glass doors that lead to the garden; and checked red-and-beige curtains from the Kerry Woolen Mills in Ireland separate the living room and kitchen. (Typically pulled back, the draperies are closed on cold nights to preserve the warmth of the fireplace and keep away drafts from the garden.)
Although the couple didn’t work with an interior designer, they had a vision of would unite the setting—an emphasis on collected items and pieces found on their travels that establish emotional resonance while also being aesthetically pleasing. “I had a number of particular influences in my decorating style—my godfather Christopher Gibbs, and Robert Kime, both antique dealers,” says FitzGerald. “I used to go to Kime’s house with his daughter Hannah and loved the mix of textiles, paintings, and all the things they brought back from their voyages.”
The environment FitzGerald and West have created is a multilayered history of their time together, as well as their lives before they met. The couple married in 2010 but first dated in the early 1990s, when they were undergraduates at Trinity University in Dublin. Framed posters of FitzGerald’s childhood home, Glin Castle—her father was the 29th Knight of Glin—sit atop an antique piano next to mounted bird plates found during their time in South Africa. Photos of the family are pinned on felt boards near paintings collected from various fairs and galleries (an evocative blue-and-white 1970s canvas by David Scott is a favorite in the kitchen). The Tangiers carpets on the living room floor were wedding presents from Gibbs; Moroccan textiles cover the pillows on the cream-colored sofas; the wall hanging in the master bedroom was found at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. Additional artworks throughout the house include a bright Sam McKeown floral print that was a birthday present from West to FitzGerald. Pops of color, including a generous dose of red, add to the cheery effect.
The decision to put the master bedroom and bathroom on the second floor makes perfect sense: flooded with natural light, the space is equally suited for an impromptu slumber party with four rambunctious kids or a meditative soak in the freestanding tub. “Lying in the bath looking out onto the pear trees is my idea of heaven,” says FitzGerald.
From the vantage point of those pear trees, the effect is of being in the British countryside. An expansive lawn leads to a tree house, a trampoline, and a vegetable plot planted with kale and rhubarb. Red-painted benches sit under a bamboo pergola shaded with climbing clematis and purple potato vine. A Rue Othello street sign, which FitzGerald found in Paris and gave to West while he was performing in the play, is displayed on a picturesque garden shed. Repurposed mirrors mounted on the fence reflect light and add the illusion of depth. “The kids are outside most of the time. Other kids come around, and we all know each other,” says Fitzgerald. “It’s very neighborly. We even shout over the wall.”
Children, chaos, charming tableaus, free-flowing spaces, and a backyard oasis all play a part in the family’s favorite gathering: a Sunday lunch with friends. As FitzGerald describes it, the weekly tradition is “a riotous environment. We feed the children first, and then as they play outside, we have a long meal under the pergola with lots of red wine. Then we read the paper or go to the park for some football.” Rambling, a little bit raucous, and most certainly fun: wouldn’t you love to be their neighbors?