A botanic gardens-inspired glazed side return extension in verdant green steel brings light, life and lushness to a Clapham terrace
Who is the project for and what was their brief?
The brief was to refurbish and extend a Victorian terraced house in south London for a family of five with a new design that could be adapted to keep pace with the changing dynamics of the family. Constrained by a tight budget and a small garden, the house was refurbished and extended to the side and above with a loft extension, resulting in an airy space that echoes a traditional conservatory.
Describe the original building and what you have done to it
The original building was a standard mid-terrace that was in need of a complete internal refurbishment. The kitchen at the rear was small and dark and appeared not to have been updated since the 1970s. Outside in a repurposed water closet was a utility space where the family did their laundry. We completely gutted the kitchen and extended it to include the alley and utility.
The new side extension was inspired by a visit the client made to the Geneva Conservatory and Botanical Garden and features a glazed green steel frame. We wanted to avoid a square, boxy extension that would clash with the existing building so opted for a lightweight steel frame that echoes a Victorian conservatory. Underneath the glazed extension roof is a built-in bench that sits against a large hinged window, forming the dining area of the kitchen.
The house was also extended with a mansard loft extension, which houses a master bedroom and provides an excellent view of the city. Bespoke cupboards were built for the space.
What was the planning context/situation?
Although the house was situated in a conservation area, there were no constraints to the planning. The loft extension was carried out under permitted development. However, the building work started at the height of the first national lockdown which slowed the project down substantially.
Explain how the interiors have been designed
The client had been planning this extension for few a years and had amassed a huge selection of clippings from magazines. We couldn’t use all of them so our first task was to filter through the clippings and extract a logical language that could work for the whole house.
The client's taste is quite eclectic. They wanted to incorporate Roman busts and antique furniture to create a curated - rather than designed - feel. They selected Shaker-style Plain English kitchen units, which are complemented by a long antique refectory table. For the bathroom the clients choose hand-painted tiles by north London company Balineum.
Describe one challenge and how you overcame it
Balancing the tight budget with the clients' aspirations was the biggest challenge we faced. We wanted to avoid the project getting too big and having to compromise by reducing the quality of materials used internally. We worked around this by keeping elements of the building fabric that were in good condition, such as the floorboards, and replacing damaged parts with recycled material from the builder's other projects.
In other parts of the house, low-cost alternatives were used. In the bathroom, painted MDF panelling was specified, with tiling reserved for the shower enclosure. This allowed us to retain the Victorian feel in a fresh, modern way. Panelling was also used in the kitchen as a backdrop to the dining space underneath the extension. Painted in a high gloss red, it adds warmth and character without costing too much.
What was your favourite detail/moment in the project?
Sitting underneath the skylight on the built-in bench with its lovely upholstered cushions and looking out at the birch tree in the garden. It makes you feel like you are in a little oasis. Using steel as opposed to timber meant we could create a really light structure and the benefits of that far outweighs the additional cost.
Which aspects would you do again next time - and which not?
In the bathroom loft, we lined a reveal in marble through to the shower enclosure. Along with the wood panelling, it softens a space that can often be quite harsh, so we would definitely do that again. What I would not do again is refurbish a single-glazed sash window - it's a lot of work. If the budget had allowed, I would have preferred to replace them all.
Total contract cost £280,000
GIFA cost per m2 £1555/m2
Architect Sinclair Studios
Contractor Magni Build
Steel and glass side extension roof IQ Glass
Kitchen and other joinery Plain English
Bathroom tiles Balineum