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FIRST LOOK

Checa Romero transforms mews property with concrete staircase

  • 3 Comments

A traditional mews house in London, originally used to stable horses with servant quarters above, has been transformed internally and expanded with a loft extension

The site constitutes a set of two neighbouring mews, connected over 20 years ago. No garden and a lack of natural light to the rear were the main challenges for the refurbishment.

In line with the practice’s approach of squeezing as much as possible out of small spaces, the solution was to install a central concrete stairwell that acts as an atrium, with a bespoke skylight at the top allowing natural light to flood the loft, first and ground floors, connecting each space with the elements. 

This large gesture has been supplemented by a range of small crafted details, such as a bespoke rotating window and a cast concrete sink. 

Staircase axonometric texture background smaller

Staircase axonometric texture background smaller

Architect’s view 

The project at Victoria Mews demonstrates how a creative and thoughtful reimagining of a traditional typology can be the birthplace of a tactile, orientated piece of architecture that allows a new mode of living. 

The transformation of the existing space comprised an overhaul of the interior, including a roof extension and a set of subtle changes made to the front and rear façade to bring in more light and air. 

The staircase, the main architectural statement of the project, is a harmonious interplay between concrete and steel The meticulous meeting of these materials required inventive methods and solutions to design a detail. These details are found throughout the project, from the bespoke rotating window to the hand-cast concrete sink. 

121 bx2a8715

121 bx2a8715

As the property lacked a garden, the loft conversion added a 1m-wide terrace at the rear of the property, which also acts as a space to lay a skylight strip to give additional light to the kitchen below. The loft has a series of pivoting doors to either close itself off from the central staircase or open itself up, always giving opportunity to let light and air move through the property. This concept of the elements being uninterrupted within the space allowed for opportunities to design spaces that could be closed and opened at the same time, giving Victoria Mews an experimental character.

Curro Checa Romero, founder, Checa Romero Architects

Working detail 

Victoria Mews is a relatively small project; the architecture, design and attention to detail are all on show with little place to hide, meaning designing a detail of worth is doubly important as it becomes an integral part of the entire project. 

The kitchen was always going to be placed on the first floor, however the original building only had two sash windows at the front of the property, with no opening at the rear. We decided to make a large opening at the rear, where the kitchen island would be placed with a corresponding openable window for ventilation. We decided to use frosted reeded glass to achieve more privacy and meet planning requirements, however the Cor-ten framed window is centrally pivoted into a steel profile frame, allowing it to be fully opened, giving a generous flow of air and much more natural light at the rear of the property. 

Loft conversion axonometric texture background.02

Loft conversion axonometric texture background.02

The original rear wall was constructed of solid brick and an additional 100mm layer of wool insulation was added. Once the opening was made, we capped the opening with a Cor-ten lip around the entire frame. The window frame was constructed of square steel profiles, where the centre pivot rod was placed, top and bottom. Once rotated at 90 degrees, a Cor-ten sheet with two smaller openings frames a tree, playing homage to the surrounding nature. This idea of the detail as both playful and practical is always one element to our philosophy of design. 

To lock the unit, we designed a custom lock that can be flipped, allowing the entire window unit to be rotated. These small custom-designed and crafted fittings and locks are always an opportunity to make, rather than purchase, prefabricated ironmongery. We treat every component of the working detail as a handmade piece of architecture.

Curro Checa Romero, founder, Checa Romero Architects 

Proposed detail with notes

Proposed detail with notes

Project data

Start on site 28 April 2017
Completion 05 February 2018
Gross internal floor area 106.4m²
Form of contract Design and Build
Construction cost £170,000
Construction cost per m² £1,600
Architect Checa Romero Architects
Client Private
Structural engineer JMS Consulting Engineers 
Approved building inspector ABC Certification 
Main contractor Studio Idealyc
Joinery and steel works Grace & Wren
CAD software used Vectorworks

  • 3 Comments

Readers' comments (3)

  • So the AJ is not only happy to publish pictures of a domestic staircase with no guarding but also happy to show a toddler clambering up it. I'm sure this is all covered in the PD's H & S report, but what does the AJ's Geoff Wilkinson make of it?

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  • The image isn't worthy of the AJ, or of any competent architect.
    Perhaps Curra Checo Romero, The RIBA, the ARB and - last, but not least, the local building control authority, would like to comment?
    Could the sort of thoughtlessness behind the superficial attractions of the Grenfell Tower 'refurbishment' be rather more widespread than architects would like to admit?

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  • This is seriously bad and speaks volumes as to the merit - or lack thereof - of architectural education standards.

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