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Hairy House by Hayhurst and Co

[5 houses by 5 practices] Hayhurst and Co: Hairy House, Hammersmith, London

In early 2010 we were commissioned to extend an oddly shaped, end-of-terrace Victorian house in Hammersmith, west London. Our clients, Lucy Carmichael (a design advisor at CABE) and her husband Gareth Langdon (a furniture maker), were keen to avoid the ‘glass-box’ or ‘white render’ kitchen-extension clichés, but did want to explore an approach that reflected the specific, almost awkward geometry of the site.

Located on the outside of a bend in the road, the house’s plot widens from a 1.5m width at the back of pavement to almost 12m at its widest point. With the house’s party wall and flank wall following the boundary lines of the plot, the plan fans out from a 6m-wide front elevation to a 9m-wide rear elevation. In doing this, it creates a ‘mutant’ form of a traditional Victorian plan, with a small trapezoid-shaped room between the rear reception and the stair compartment.

The size of this oddly shaped room, still used as a study, was sacrificed to allow the lowest leg of the split-level staircase to widen in alignment with the flank wall of the house. This kink in the circulation re-orientates the route through the house towards the centre of the garden and allows a slow and staggered transition from the Victorian house into its new extension.

The design of the extension-effectively a single room - evolved from the development of a series of spatial and material moves, which both complement and challenge the order of the existing Victorian house within the specific context of the site’s geometry.

The internal ground level was lowered by 500mm to provide a ‘Victorian’ proportion to the room and enough height to modulate the ceiling profile to allow it to tilt up to the south-west and the afternoon sun.

The focus of the space to the side rather than to the rear establishes the different sectional relationships between inside and out: the side elevation has the flush inside-out relationship extending to a sunken terrace while the rear elevation is made up of a solid element carved to form an over-sized, trapezoidal-shaped picture window, with the sill sitting flush with the grass in order to visually extend the re-established ground condition from inside to out.

Contrary to the constructional logic of the existing house, the use of slate and timber are both conceived as ‘thick’ in function but ‘thin’ in material application. The slate on the soffits and reveals gives the appearance of a thick material whereas the coursing clearly conveys it is cladding. Equally, the timber is conceived as a thick ribbon carved to form steps, shelves and seats; however, as a surface, it is clearly clad in timber boards.

Working in collaboration with enlightened, design-literate clients added to the design process and allowed us a rare opportunity to pursue an uncompromised design approach to one of the most common, but also much-maligned, types of architectural work - the kitchen extension.

Nick Hayhurst, director, Hayhurst and Co

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