The £98,000 home office and self-contained guest bedroom unit has bespoke shutters which open and close depending on the client’s needs
The client, a professional couple, wanted a space that could double as a home office and as a self-contained guest bedroom with ensuite. The challenge was to develop a design that could adapt to these two very different requirements, but on a very small footprint.
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Black Box is a small, first-floor rear extension to a mid-terrace Victorian house in Islington. The project is situated on a dense urban site with neighbouring buildings in close proximity, and any proposed extension would be overlooked from multiple sides. Driven by a desire to maximise natural daylight and celebrate key views across adjacent gardens, MATA Architects wanted the new space to benefit from large windows. Therefore the architect had to contend with introducing large glazing while regulating levels of shading, natural daylight, privacy and security at different times of the day.
The extension is conceived as a ‘reconfigurable box’ in dark-stained Siberian Larch. Two bespoke counterbalanced shutters are manually operated internally using winches. These allow for multiple configurations of the box – from fully open with window overhang acting as shading, to shut tight at night. The dynamic nature of the façade encourages the owners to adapt their environment for comfort.
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This is a small and seemingly simple first-floor extension conceived as a ‘reconfigurable box’ – both internally and externally. The triumph, for us, is that this simplicity succeeds in concealing so much precision engineering packed into the box. The carefully crafted result is born out of close collaboration with our structural engineer and specialist fabricator (based just outside of Edinburgh) where the extension was largely prefabricated and tested in factory conditions before installation on site.
Dan Marks, founding director, MATA Architects
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We appointed MATA Architects to design an extension of our ground floor and replace a dilapidated winter garden/conservatory on the first floor. The aim of the project was to increase our living space on the ground floor, and to repurpose an old family bathroom on the first floor in the form of a much-needed home office that could double as a guest bedroom with ensuite bathroom.
We loved the idea of the first floor as this dynamic black box that could be reconfigured and were delighted that, following a lengthy and, at times, delicate planning process, MATA was able to obtain full consent. While the consent included the ground-floor extension we chose to prioritise and phase the works, beginning with the first floor.
MATA prepared detailed drawings and specifications for tenders, which they invited and managed. They negotiated savings with contractors on our behalf and administered the building contract. While the construction phase was bumpy at times, they remained professional throughout and a genuine ally. We now have a beautiful and highly functional, if rather unconventional, first-floor extension.
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Start on site February 2018
Completion December 2018
Gross internal floor area 128m² (existing); 140m² (proposed)
Form of contract Traditional
Construction cost £98,540
Construction cost per m² £7,580
Architect MATA Architects
Structural engineer Entuitive
Specialist fabricator Old School Fabrications
Approved building inspector PWC
Main contractor Tomson Construction
CAD software used Rhino, MicroStation