5 House Portraits by Lisa Tolley

Introduced by Debbie Blott

What compels someone to have their portrait, or that of someone else, painted? It may be to commemorate a remarkable achievement or stage in their life, or, most commonly, simply to capture a moment in time, to hold a memory close. And so it is with a house. Here, Lisa Tolley tells the stories behind 5 house portraits.

Lisa Tolley, has been painting house portraits for fifteen years and during that time she has been invited to paint many different homes, for numerous reasons. Time is taken to discuss not just the view of the house but also the details to be included to ensure it is completely personal and tells the story of the occupants.

Some of the stories behind each home have a common theme, from moving house to welcoming a new member of the family, but every home and house portrait is unique. “What is interesting, is that not only is each home is completely unique, but personal details to be included and the process to final painting is too.” says Lisa “I admit, that I am not a conceptual artist, but I do want the final painting to be not only a pictorial representation, but also a reflection of the owner’s personality.”

Here she tells the stories behind five of the house portraits she was commissioned to paint:

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1. Dream Home

Have you ever experienced, that ‘moment in time’, when everything felt on the right track? These clients, had lived near and admired this house for many years and when it came up for sale they felt it was their opportunity to own it. It was a long process from offer to completion as the owner wanted to find his new dream house too. The painting was commissioned just a few weeks after they moved in as a joint Christmas present to themselves, to capture that ‘moment in time’ then for years to come.

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2. Moving house and a new baby

Life’s big events, often come in two or even threes. This client had a new baby and was moving house to Haslemere in the space of just a few months. They knew that it was the right time to leave and were excited about the changes, but wanted to capture this moment in time before everything changed. They commissioned a house portrait of their Teddington home, and took it with them as a happy reminder as they continued their life in a new location.

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3. 1st Wedding Anniversary Present

The traditional gift after the first year of marriage, is something made paper and so a house portrait seemed to be the perfect anniversary present for this happy couple. This painting was commissioned by the incredibly thoughtful parents’ of the young couple in the painting. What made is even more poignant was that the house was up for sale and sold only days after the gift was given.

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4. 40th Birthday present

Maybe not everyone wants their age in balloons for all to see, but at forty this client was feeling very contented and had the lovely idea of celebrating with a house portrait. A fortieth birthday can be a wonderful time; a time when you are most established, with a home, maybe a family and a sense that you have got to where you want to be. The painting encompassed all those achievements.

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5. All about the garden

Gardens are, of course, a natural extension of the house and whilst they are rarely the focus of a house portrait they can be an important aspect. They are also wonderful to paint, capturing the beauty of a garden is a fluid and liberating process compared to the precision drawing required to accurately depicting a house from the architectural detailing to the twenty shades of brick that may need to be included. This client has the most wonderful garden with many nooks and crannies to discover. I completely flattened the perspective to make sure everything could be incorporated, then enjoyed myself mixing all the flower colours.


Lisa Tolley is a graphic illustrator and house portrait artist. Each commission is completely individual and captures the personal character of the property. The process starts with a chat and photographs of the house. Lisa then works on a sketch for approval before creating the final piece. This is painted on textured watercolour paper using gouache paint and takes around 16 hours and sometimes as many as 100 colours mixed. Prices start from £295.

You can see more examples of her work on her website lisatolley.co.uk

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