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FIRST LOOK

Pear Tree House by Michaelis Boyd draws on industrial origins

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Oriel windows draw light into this discreet reworking of a former workshop

Michaelis Boyd was commissioned to work on the full refurbishment of an existing three-storey house in the heart of Clerkenwell, London. Originally an 18th-century ironmonger’s workshop, Pear Tree House sits in between an office building and an apartment block on a quiet side street. The property underwent various renovations and changes of use from workshop to office, and in the early 1990s it was partially redeveloped from a two-storey office to a three-storey contemporary terraced house. 

Embracing these origins, the refurbishment sought to re-envision a modern design style with a light industrial touch. The client wanted a house for working and entertaining, and so the floor plans were reconfigured to enable the ground floor to have meetings and large parties alike – with the living level at first floor and bedrooms on the second floor. A new terrace at first-floor level provides an outdoor extension to the living space and a new roof terrace at third-floor level provides a vast view of the City of London to the south. The design concept of the house is to live connected to the outdoor environment, to take in the inner-city views and the integration of outdoor spaces, and so bespoke windows and skylights throughout the house were critical to the success and quality of the internal spaces. 

The circulation shifted from the centre of the floor plan to the boundary wall, and the stairs are arranged to have swathes of daylight enter the deepest part of the plan from the sliding rooflight on the terrace. The result is a more open living plan and a greater fluidity between spaces. 

Also key to the refurbishment was to take full advantage of the two main elevations: northern and southern. The façade to the street was clad in new brickwork and the window openings were reconfigured to suit the new internal layout; long slot windows were punctured in the facade, and two new glass box windows (oriel windows) project dramatically from the building over the footpath below, functioning as internal window seats in the living room and the guest bedroom. The new ‘hit and miss’ brick forms a perforated skin to the facade and is the ventilation for the internal spaces.

A refined palette of materials and finishes has been used throughout – all have been selected to patinate and age as the client makes use of the house. The new concrete slabs have been polished at ground floor; engineered rustic oak flooring has a natural oil finish throughout the rest of the house; dark antique bronze and blackened steel have been used for window and door frames, metalwork, cabinetry and ironmongery; and natural stone and concrete is used in the kitchen and bathrooms. 

Mbpearstreet 08 02 17 0162

Mbpearstreet 08 02 17 0162

Architect’s view

Working on the Pear Street project was challenging in that there was so much space for a couple and they were living in a very disjointed way within the spaces, so convincing them to change their ways and create a flow to the spaces, and a more natural way of living and working. The other interesting aspect is to convince clients not to worry about creating generous circulation spaces and spaces for pause along the journey - not ascribing every square foot to a function, but creating spaces that are just reflective and calming, and part of the journey through the house.

Alex Michaelis, founder, Michaelis Boyd 

Skeych elevations

Project data

Start on site 2015
Completion 2017
Gross internal floor area 410m² + 100m² of external floor area
Form of contract Traditional, lump sum contract; Architect as contract administrator
Construction cost Confidential
Architect Michaelis Boyd Associates
Client Private
Structural engineer and below ground drainage engineering Michael Barclay Partnership LLP
M&E consultant Green Tomato Energy
Quantity surveyor Andrew Ohl Associates
Other specialist consultants Landscape design: Philip Nixon Design, Audio visual: Twisted Pear Consultancy, Kitchen design: Bulthaup by Kitchen Architecture
Project manager Michaelis Boyd Associates
CDM coordinator
 Michaelis Boyd Associates
Approved building inspector BBS Building Control Ltd
Main contractor J&Z Construction Ltd
CAD software used Vectorworks

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Wonderfully restrained facade - I love those glass box windows.
    Hope AJ will publish a detail soon.

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