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Height and light: Cut House, Oxford by Gatti Routh Rhodes

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This residential refurbishment costing £94,000 is focused around a new double-height library space and stair


This refurbishment of a late 19th century, three-storey terrace in east Oxford – which has been entered into this year’s AJ Small Projects Awards – includes the insertion of a lofty double-height library space, stair and attached study.

Lined with birch-ply shelving and red terracotta floors, while utilising white powder-coated steel for the stairs and library ladder, the scheme helps maximise daylight to the previously underlit lower ground floor.

See a selection of other entries to AJ Small Projects 2018 in the AJ Buildings Library

Cut house 1

Cut house 1

Source: Gatti Routh Rhodes

Architect’s view 

When we first visited the house it became clear that alongside a refurbishment throughout, transforming the poorly-lit and underused lower ground floor would become the focus of the project. Not only did the it have insufficient daylight, it also had a limited floor-to-ceiling height of 2.1m.

Our solution was to cut a void through the floor of the upper ground floor front room, introducing a staircase and enabling the insertion of a double-height library and small study. This unusual, sectional ‘L’ shape connects through to a fully-glazed facade facing onto the sheltered courtyard garden.

The joinery elements are made from birch plywood and finished with a semi-transparent white wax; the balustrade, bannister and sliding library ladder from bespoke white powder-coated 20mm square-section steel. A new terracotta floor picks up on the tones of the external red brick paving and completes the palette of soft, earthy materials.

The result is a generous light-filled dual aspect space. And while the kitchen and dining area retains its modest floor to ceiling height, the ever present sense of the adjacent double-height ‘borrowed’ volume creates a delightful room for cooking, living and dining.

Sketch 3

Sketch 3

Source: Gatti Routh Rhodes

Project data

Start on site May 2017
Completion August 2017
Gross internal floor area 82m²
Form of contract Traditional
Construction cost £94,270
Architect Gatti Routh Rhodes
Client Private
Structural engineer Price & Myers
Main contractor Curbridge Construction

3088872 ajspad2018v3p4p

3088872 ajspad2018v3p4p

How to enter AJ Small Projects

  1. Head to the AJ Small Projects Awards website, register and pay your entry fee
  2. An email will then be sent to you with log in details for the AJ Buildings Library 
  3. Upload your project to the AJ Buildings Library. You will need to provide: 
  • A 150-300 word text describing your project
  • At least eight photographs, five drawings and one working detail to illustrate your project. NB Images should be high resolution and you must be able to give us third-party reproduction rights (for publication in the AJ, AJ Buildings Library and distribution to other publications to promote the awards)
  • Project details including name of practice, name of project, date of completion, total cost, gross internal floor area, client, structural engineer, services engineer, quantity surveyor, main contractor, and other subcontractors and suppliers


  • Entries must have been completed between 1 January 2016 and 31 December 2017
  • All entries must have a maximum total contract value of £250,000
  • Projects must not have had significant coverage in the architectural press (if your project has been covered elsewhere, please declare where)
  • Projects must be located in the UK or built by a UK-based practice abroad
  • All entries will be displayed in the AJ Buildings Library


2 February 2018

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I wish the AJ would give more details on projects. I realise potentially alot of the supplier spec for this project would fairly generic (ie. kitchen windows/door, flooring etc.). However, I am always curious as to what they are as it gives a better idea of how the minimal budget is being achieved.

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