In approaching this mews house in London W11, architect Lisa Shell Design has taken an apparently relaxed approach to reordering the front facade - a contrast to the busy, mixed-quality of neighbouring houses. The framing of ground-floor openings echoes the large doors typical of mews in their original use, while above, the placing of windows follows the common asymmetry.
The untypically large scale of these openings, though, suggests a bare minimalism within. Not so. Rather, there is a compression of spaces and interlocking of levels that spiral up the house. Ingeniously, in the north-east quadrant of the plan there are three storeys set directly beneath the rafters. Yet by limiting ceiling heights, to 2.1m for the mezzanine study, the top floor is less than 4.5m above ground level and so the stair has not had to be made a protected escape route, with all the self-closing doors that entails. This allows the ground floor and the mezzanine study looking down on it to be largely open plan. This and the fenestration give breathing space to a ground floor area that is only 6x7m overall.
The large openings at the front are much needed to bring in daylight, given the constraints at the rear. The mews forms the endstop to the back gardens of houses behind, which the mews cannot overlook. So obscured glass lights the lower levels (glass troughs in the case of the kitchen, others allowing ventilation, too) and rooflight glazing is used at the rear of the first floor.
As to the staircase, the 'how did she get that through the building regulations' question is answered by Lisa Shell that it is designed to the millimetre. Open at the ground floor, it winds upward in a box with glass balustrade and open, floating treads.
On the first floor, the plan steps up from front to back to accommodate the mezzanine below. The flow of space and light is helped in the master suite by making the bathroom space continuous with the bed space - only the WC is closed off, in a run of cupboards. Indeed, storage is a preoccupation in Shell's design, not just conventional cupboards but in the rear eaves and surprise ones built into the sides of staircases.
For one of the clients, who had lived in the house for 10 years before this project, having essential repairs valued at £50,000 and an unsuitably conventional cellular plan, moving house was the first thought on his impending marriage. What the architect has achieved instead is a newly functional living and working environment for this couple, not simply animated by its daylighting but providing an open aspect throughout what is essentially a singleaspect plot.
TENDER DATE Negotiated contract during design
START ON SITE DATE 4 March 2002
CONTRACT DURATION 30 weeks
GROSS INTERNAL FLOOR AREA 95m 2
CONTRACT JCT Minor Works 98
TOTAL COST £217,075
CLIENT Richard Mayson and Katrina Blandy
ARCHITECT Lisa Shell Design: Lisa Shell, Adela Askandar
STRUCTURAL ENGINEER Osborne Edwards Consulting Structural Engineers
PARTY WALL SURVEYOR R Paice and Associates
MAIN CONTRACTOR Roy Cox Contracts Management
SUBCONTRACTORS AND SUPPLIERS Glass planks Reglit; glass Greenberg Glass; metalwork Fida Engineering; ironmongery Strada, Hettich, Hafele, Bevan, DR Services (London), Allgoods; security alarm Tara ; electricsMK, Wandsworth; hardwood supply EC Forest; counters (Quartz Virgo) Classico Marble and Tiling Co; taps (Dombracht), shower controls (Grohe), sanitaryware (Duravit) Edwins; lighting Poulsen (from Skandium), SKK, Aktiva, Emcolite, Davey Lighting; rooflights Barnglass, Stoakes Systems, The Metal Window Co; panel radiators Hudevad; trench heating Gunning Engineering; towel radiators Runtal Zehnder; boiler Potterton; hot water storage Heatrae Sadia; appliances Buyers and Sellers; tiles Galleria Ceramics; tile trim Schluter Systems