I’ll admit, I hadn’t heard of The White House before Soraya mentioned it to me. Not THE White House, obviously – I’m not quite that clueless. No, I’m talking about The White House in Ealing, built by former mayoral candidate Prince John Zylinski as a tribute to his grandmother.
It’s a very moving story: Prince John’s grandmother, a Polish aristocrat, survived the WWII concentration camps, only to see her childhood home, an 18th century palace, burned to the ground by Poland’s post-war Communist government. She moved to London, where Prince John was later to be born – and where, aged six, he informed his grandmother that one day he would build her a replica of her former home. It took him a while, but The White House was completed in 2009 and is his private residence, only open to the public on rare occasions, such as this Open House Weekend, when we visited.
So what is it like, I hear you ask? To which I would respond: well, from the outside it is opulent (white marble, flecked with gold leaf) but it’s also surprisingly welcoming, surrounded by a simple but lovely garden. Once inside, the opulence really kicks in: as evidenced by the gold leaf piano (once played by Myleen Klass, apparently) and the all-marble kitchen. Mind you, the kitchen is definitely used – we were allowed a nosey around it and the cupboards are full of the kinds of food and cleaning utensils that you’d find in the homes of mere mortals like us.
Upstairs into the bedrooms with their magnificent painted ceilings: all decorated very beautifully, if not especially practically – none of the guest rooms have wardrobes, which struck us as very odd – surely the rich have more, not fewer, clothes than the rest of us? Great views of London from the marble balcony – couldn’t believe that we could see The Shard all the way from Ealing. And back downstairs into the Salon, recently used (sorry to name-drop again) by Joan Collins whilst promoting her new M&S range.
All in all: a very interesting experience. It wouldn’t be the kind of building I would want to call home (can you imagine trying to clean a marble microwave?), but you can only applaud Prince John for fulfilling the promise he made to his grandmother all those years ago. There is no doubt that she would be very proud.