This London townhouse’s retrofit by AOC made space for the owners’ vintage bicycle collection
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Bonhôte House is a four-storey townhouse in north London, home to a film producer, a boutique owner and their young children. The couple needed more room for a growing family, and for their contemporary art and vintage bicycle collections. They asked us to design a home that felt big and intimate, luxurious and useful, sophisticated and playful, beautiful and cosy.
The original 19th-century property was narrow, dark and unwelcoming, and had been stripped bare by previous owners. Our first move was to remove an area of floor, merging basement and ground levels at the front of the house to create a double-height gallery into which a new decorative stair descends from the entrance hall. This brings natural light into the basement living space, and creates expansive walls for the display of large artworks and for the storage of valuable books.
On the upper levels, non-structural walls have been relocated to shape a range of spaces appropriate to the family’s lives. New doors and internal windows connect individual rooms while maintaining distinctions between them, offering glimpses through the house itself, and then out into the city beyond.
The family wanted a characterful home, contemporary in tone without feeling ‘new’. In response, we enriched bare walls with bespoke timber profiles created from the facial profiles of family members – a reinterpretation of traditional mouldings. Used as skirtings, architraves and linings, these ornamental features ensure each room is uniquely tailored to its inhabitants. In the lower, more public levels, all four mouldings are combined to create a rippling timber lining that softens and connects.
A distinct domestic character has been created by deploying a range of materials, chosen for their associative qualities. A slumped concrete sofa, tinted green, anchors the new staircase at the centre of the plan, before evolving into a kitchen work surface. The use of mirrored laminate on storage units helps them dissolve into their surroundings, while providing endless games of reflection for the children. A basket-weave floor pattern, used in a variety of scales and materials, reinforces the individual characters of different parts of the house while creating a coherent whole.
We worked closely with the family to ensure the house could support the visual choreography of special objects while still being a practical space, able to manage their storage needs in a discreet, integrated way. The subsequent combination of bespoke panelling with open shelves, interspersed with glazed, mirrored and even secret doors, bestows an ‘instant maturity’ upon the home, as though the family has been there for generations.
- Geoff Shearcroft, director, AOC
Start on site June 2011
Completion March 2012
Gross internal floor area 136m2
Total cost £249,000
Form of contract JCT Intermediate Building Contract
Structural engineer Price & Myers
Quantity surveyor Stockdale
Concrete consultant David Bennett
Bespoke mouldings Any Old Company
Main contractor Dale Contracts