Where I work: George Saumarez-Smith, architect

George Saumarez Smith, director of ADAM Architecture, is — like so many of us — working from home. He spoke to Rosie Paterson about how he’s handling working in lockdown, and reflects on a couple of his favourite projects.

George Saumarez Smith was made a director of ADAM Architecture — one of four who own the company, equally — when he was just 30 years old. That was 16 years ago, and the architect still feels ‘very lucky’ to have such a varied role.

The hallway with study beyond in the house of George Saumarez Smith.  ©Paul Raeside / Country Life

Pre-lockdown, the team at ADAM worked across two offices: the first in London, on the second floor of a Bloomsbury townhouse, and the second in Winchester, in a cluster of historic buildings that were originally built as a house and separate barn.

Smith’s ‘new normal’ is working from the home in Winchester where he’s lived for 15 years with his wife, Jane, and his (now teenage) children. The house reflects two  of the big influences on his life: there are architectural drawings and antique books everywhere. His grandfather was the Classical architect Raymond Erith, while his father was a bookseller.

‘I have never really wanted to design a house for myself; I generally find it much easier to make decisions for other people,’ said  George in a piece he wrote for Country Life in April.

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‘Perhaps one day, a client will commission me to completely design and decorate their house, which I would love to do — but only if they like bold wallpapers, Indian fabrics and lots of books.’

At first he worked at the kitchen table, but recently has been trying out different places around the house, to provide some much needed variety. And he’s quick to point out the positives: ‘Spending more time at home has made me much more aware of how the light and temperature changes in different rooms throughout the day.’

Gone are the days (for now) where Smith could visit a building site or meet new clients face-to-face. Luckily, another large part of his role is remote working friendly. Drawing. ‘I tend to be most productive early in the morning or last thing at night,’ he adds.

One of his recent, standout projects was to design a new art gallery for Richard Green, in New Bond Street: ‘It was an amazing commission, as it involved both the practical aspects of displaying Modern pictures and also the challenge of fitting into an historic street.’ Another favourite is a house in New Dehil, build entirely from solid, load-bearing masonry, using local materials: ‘My house is now full of blocked-printed fabrics bought in Kahn Market, in Delhi.’ It doesn’t sound like too bad a place to work from, at all.

George Saumarez Smith at home in Winchester. ©Paul Raeside / Country Life

  • Go-to office uniform

I usually wear a suit and tie to work, and I actually feel more comfortable like this than if I was more casually dressed.

  • Work soundtrack

I listen to music while I am drawing, often late at night. As a student I used to listen to Leonard Cohen a lot, and hearing his music now makes me feel very nostalgic.

  • Messy desk or tidy desk?

I do a lot of drawing so the drawing board needs be be kept clean, but there are piles of books everywhere so it is never very tidy.

  • Best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given

Work hard and be nice to people.

  • Your Instagram hero

I follow lots of designers, gardeners, writers and antiques dealers. My must follow is Ruth Guilding’s Bible of British Taste @bibleofbritishtaste.