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House for a Cellist

Location: 

Islington, London

Status: 

Completed, 2021

Our client wanted to improve their existing traditional Victorian terrace house, they loved where they lived in Islington and did not want to move, but they needed more living space on the ground floor of their home. We proposed adding a rear extension, refurbishment and reconfiguration of the traditional plan. The extension gave the additional internal space as they desired which we were able to maximise through the reconfiguration and refurbishment, making better use of the space available and upgrading the home. 

"For me, the project was about creating a space that was a counterpoint between the energy of central London and the tranquillity of a home with a garden and traditional design elements. I wanted a space that harmonised these two different environments since I seek harmony in my own life balancing my roles as a scientist and a musician."

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As the house sits within a Conservation Area, our designs had to be sympathetic to the conditions of the site and local context, however we were keen to bring an element of individuality, reflecting the client's personality with distinctive material choices. 

Our designs have delivered a bright home, with distinctive design moments scattered through the house, such as the circular skylight, a pivoting pint in the layout, drawing natural light deep within the interior and creating an ideal place for our musician to practice.  

The project was included in the Open House Festival 2021, with great success. 

The backstory

The original three-storey townhouse was built around 1850, as part of an infill terrace development in north London. The current owner wanted to transform the house, as part of a much needed extensive refurbishment (both the brick and timber structures needed reviewing) to create a bright, spacious and contemporary home to live in and play music in, without losing the character of the original dwelling.

Our clients wanted to sensitively transform their existing house, from a traditional London townhouse into a contemporary, light and spacious home. The renovation needed to be sympathetic to the original dwelling, as it is located within a local Conservation Area, to enhance rather than lose any of the characters of the original architecture.

 

A key element of the design was the creation of tranquil interior space for the owner, a professional cellist, to rehearse in. The rehearsal space needed to be calming, without clutter or distractions, and with a direct connection to the sky.

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The Project

To create the space needed we added a generous single storey ground floor rear extension, with a roof terrace above, replacing old additions to the house (dating to the 1970’s and 1990’s.) The ground floor plan has the kitchen at the front of the house, with a spacious, private open plan living space at the rear, with large glazing installed to connect the interior to the rear garden.

Within the living space we have introduced a feature skylight, an unusual circular roof light installed in the centre of the living space. This creates a point of interest to the interior, drawing natural daylight deep within and bringing interesting shapes and shadows into the home. Beneath the skylight we have created an ideal area for the owner to rehearse in (a professional cellist), connected to the garden beyond, the sky above and in peace and privacy at the rear of the house. 

Traces of the past are evident throughout the house; we were mindful to enhance rather than lose any of the character of the original architecture. In the master bedroom, on the top floor, the original brick chimney is left exposed, bringing texture to the space and adding a unique feature to the room.

 

The materials we have incorporated into the development were selected to offer a calming pallet, creating a peaceful interior with minimal distractions. We selected natural stone, including green, grey and white marble, oak flooring and joinery, offset by crisp white walls. The green marble is thread throughout the home as a motif feature, incorporated in the master bathroom, a step of the staircase and as part of the exterior cladding, rounding off the corner in contrast to the reclaimed London bricks.  

Layout and main spaces

The internal layout is a reflection on space continuity, a study in compression and expansion, inspired by geometric shapes. The design is activated by a triangle and circle, in this instance the triangle encloses all the ground floor service areas as well as the staircase and the circle is the roof light in the middle of the house, a pivotal point in the layout. An additional element, the square, encapsulating the kitchen at the front of the house and the open planned ground floor is expressing the tension between the cube and prism.

 

The roof terrace is situated above the extension, this adds a tranquil space to sit and relax in, with views across London skyline. A green roof has been installed, laid with a wild meadow lawn to being nature further into the home. In the center of the lawn is the large round ‘eye’ from the roof light, offering glimpses down into the living space, connecting the ground floor and sky. The terrace is accessed from within by a bespoke paddle staircase, crafted from oak, the ingenious design only needs alternate treads and takes less than half the space a traditional staircase might need.

 
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Drawings

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Video