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FIRST LOOK

Merrett Houmøller Architects ‘strips back’ Hackney apartment

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A previously anodyne, awkwardly-shaped London flat has been refreshed by using a simplified palette of materials

This ground-floor apartment, sitting to the rear of a large newbuild complex dating from the early 2000s, was previously dark and cramped due to a deep plan and odd walls angled at 45 degrees. To augment space and introduce character, Merrett Houmøller stripped the entire flat back to its concrete and blockwork shell, straightening walls and revealing electrics, builder’s marks and the occasional chalk ‘working out’ in the process. Setting off this raw aesthetic, the floors are finished in white resin.

The 94m² flat is primarily divided into a large central social space, bedroom and further flexible work/sleep room. The central space has a living room at one end and a dining area at the other. Between the two, a white steel cube holds a galley kitchen, storage and services. At the back of the cube is a set of hit-and-miss stairs leading to a mezzanine deck area above.

Contrasting with the white-painted cube, a walnut wall runs the length of the apartment, rationalising the plan and dividing private spaces from the open-plan social areas. Frameless doors are concealed within the wall for access to the bedrooms and bathrooms. At the west end, the timber wall is designed to hinge to form a 3.2m-high door which can be used to separate off the workspace as a second bedroom.

Hackney apartment © alan williams00006

Hackney apartment by Merrett Houmøller

Architect’s view

Stripping the walls and ceiling back to the shell was essential for adding character that never made it into the original newbuild. Instead of plaster boarding over the beautiful concrete patina, we’ve revealed it throughout the flat, across the ceiling and walls. Its presence has introduced a contemporary vibe that wasn’t there before. It also allowed us to reclaim depth and height previously hidden for no real reason.
Peter Merrett, director, Merrett Houmøller Architects 

Client’s view

Merrett Houmøller Architects has brilliantly matched a serious palette of materials with a few unconventional architectural moves to make the home surprisingly playful. Its alternative sleep spaces were conceived to accommodate my children who frequently visit, but need more than a sofa bed on longer stays. I enjoy the way they can clamber up the kitchen cube to the deck above and open an almost comically sized door/wall to partition off a bedroom – and no area of the flat is lost to partial use. It’s perfect for my everyday living and working and adaptable for our family arrangement.

1517.te.02 prop plans

Project data

Start on site October 2017
Completion July 2018
Gross internal floor area 94m²
Form of contract or procurement route Management contracting
Construction cost £160,000
Construction cost per m2 £1,700
Architect Merrett Houmøller Architects
Client Private
Structural engineer O-DACE
Approved building inspector MLM Building Control
Architectural metalwork subcontractor Design and Weld
CAD software used Vectorworks

1517.te.03 prop sections 2

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