Cox Bulleid Architects has taken an unremarkable five-storey house in west London and significantly reordered it to make a striking, modern family home
This is a project of bold, confident moves, both by architect Cox Bulleid Architects and by the client. It began with the client buying this five-level, late 1800s house in west London, then in multiple occupation, ready to strip out a significant part of the interior to create an up-to-date, single-family home.
The client provided a broad-brush brief focused on space, light, connection to the garden at the rear, storage and natural materials, and a budget to go with it. The renewal cost is about £375,000. So big moves were afoot, though the architect aimed to retain everything that was compatible with the reordering.
As with many similar houses, the orientation of spaces was to the front, notably in fenestration and positioning of the staircase.
And the servants' spaces - in this case the lower ground floor and attic - were cramped with restricted ceiling heights. Yet the lower ground floor is the access level to the garden.
Reorienting the house toward the garden led to the removal of a back addition and the insertion in the rear wall of a goalpost steel frame, fully glazed, spanning lower ground floor and ground floor levels. (This is a piece of permitted development in a conservation area that the planners would have taken issue with if they could. ) Cutting back the ground floor behind this glazing to leave a double-height space adjacent to it, and removing partitions at both levels so that both floors run uninterrupted from front to back of the house, create a new scale and transparency.
From inside, the lower ground level loses its cramped feel with the cutting back of its ceiling and the new sightlines through to the garden. The ground floor, now with a glass balustrade edge, feels deck-like.
Creating these full house-width views required the existing staircases to be taken out. They have been removed throughout the house, replaced by a straight-run stair central to the side of the house (which is toplit by a skylight scarcely visible from the street). On the first floor this new stair positioning allows full house-width bedrooms at back as well as front, now with a shared bathroom between. And the second floor rear space is now a full-width bathroom and dressing room, connected by its own new stair to what was the attic. This is now opened up under the roof, and rooflit, as a large mezzanine bed platform to create a two-level master bedroom suite.
Windows at bathroom/dressing room level provide views down onto the garden. It is designed both as a green enclave for walking in, including some meadow planting, and as a more abstract composition when seen from upper floors.
Detailing of the house is kept simple, focusing on the spatial experience. White walls and ceilings, plus new oak floors throughout (except for stone at lower ground floor) and the continuous oak-tread stair, help pull the spaces together. Walls meet floors with little celebration. For the cut back floor, small steel posts and beams, only 50x100mm, disappear into the adjacent fabric. The volumes are the architecture.
Passing through the conservation area, this particular house would go unremarked from the public street, apparently hardly touched by time.
In private, to the rear, the clients have pursued their own agenda, taking what was effectively a three-storey house, plus servants' spaces, and breathing a new life into it.
TENDER DATE August 2001
START ON SITE DATE October 2001
CONTRACT DURATION 37 weeks
GROSS EXTERNAL FLOOR AREA 196m 2
CONTRACT IFC 1998 Selective Tender
TOTAL COST £376,208
ARCHITECT Cox Bulleid Architects
QUANTITY SURVEYOR Baillie Knowles Partnership
STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Elliott Wood Partnership
SERVICES ENGINEER Max Fordham and Partners
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT Devine and Swann
MAIN CONTRACTOR HS Dev & Co
SUBCONTRACTORS AND SUPPLIERS Aluminium rear glazing assembly and windows Cantifix; rooflights Velux; stone flooring Stone Age; kitchen worksurfaces GEC Anderson; santaryware CP Hart; electric blinds Merlin Screening; insulation Rockwool; lightsModular, iGuzzini; ironmongery Allgood (D-line)
Cox Bulleid Architects www. cbarchitects. net Elliott Wood Partnership www. elliottwood. co. uk Max Fordham and Partners www. maxfordham. com HS Dev & Co www. hs-dev. co. uk