More light and room alongside a strong sense of this original home have combined to provide extra storage and space for a growing family
Who is the project for and what was the brief?
The existing house, although reasonably well appointed and decorated, needed to be adapted to reflect and keep up with the changing circumstances of the client, a young family. This included internal modifications to the existing house with provision for more storage, a new kitchen encompassing a dining and seating area, and a new front extension intended to be a small yoga studio.
Describe the project, including its context, the existing building it is extending and the work that has been done
It is situated on Ferrings, an estate of modernist houses built in the late 1960s by renowned architects Victor Knight and Manfred Bresgen of Austin Vernon & Partners, who worked for the Dulwich Estates in south London. The duo completed a number of projects for the estate, and their work is characterised by their use of brick, copper and clean lines that created houses arranged around landscaped courtyard entrances set back from the street, connected by planted pathways and always flanked by semi-detached garage blocks. These garages form the consistent suburban building block on the street edge and subsequently set the rhythm of the street.
Garages in suburban spaces are less often used for ‘car storage’ and it was felt possible to meet the client's need for a yoga/contemplation space by considering a radical re-working of this area within the constraints of the existing envelope and its fenestration arrangement to the street. With the original garage separated from the house by an external courtyard, the new extension was designed to replace it with a new sensitive glass connection to the existing house that also reflects the original external courtyard space.
What was the planning context/situation?
The estate is characterised by a combination of semi-detached two-storey houses with copper pyramidal roofs and white panel infill that have much in common with the Span houses of Eric Lyons. Interspersed throughout the estate are partially flat and partially mono-pitched single-storey houses, of which this project is one.
Although not listed, the house is set in within the curtilage of the Dulwich Estates and therefore required an application under their scheme of management. Full planning permission was granted by the London Borough of Southwark.
Explain the external treatment of the project
The ground level of the garage area was reduced to create the yoga space, with a fully glazed wall constructed behind a perforated brick screen. The brick screen replaced the old garage wall and was a key design shift that maintained the spirit of the original garage; its form and presence to the street; allowing a previously dark and impervious structure to become a light, open space.
The brick screen itself was hung from a structural steel C-section designed to recall the original garage’s white fascia. From the front of the house, it is also impossible to see directly into the studio. In order to retain the sense of external space to the original courtyard, the adjoining utility and shower room were hidden behind a brick wall and a brick-clad door which can be seen through the full height glazing.
Explain how the interiors have been designed
Bespoke built-in furniture was used throughout the house and extension to connect and separate each space. Where walls and division once were, the furniture helps maintain that distinction without the need for a physical barrier.
Within the glass link that connects the extension with the original house, we have included a bathroom. As that space mimics the external courtyard, the bathroom door is clad with bricks. Once open it reveals a shower room featuring concrete finishes and bespoke interior joinery.
All low door heads and structural downstands have been removed to allow a consistent ceiling level to prevail throughout the house and extension. This allows natural light to penetrate deeper into the plan, connecting previously cellular spaces which are now separated by full height panel doors.
Describe one challenge and how you overcame it
Matching the original brickwork screen was a challenge. The bricks of the existing house and adjoining party walls were stained some years ago with a ‘reddish purple hue’. As the brickwork screen is hung with metal dowels, the bricks have to be solid and not frogged, so we had to get custom-made bricks that matched the originals. After a lengthy process, bricks were eventually sourced by Coleford Brick & Tile and sample brick panels were meticulously set up so that the existing colours were matched across the whole of the screen.
Explain your favourite detail/moment in the project
Neither we nor the client was prepared for how light the extension turned out to be. Witnessing how the light and shadow change throughout the day is a real treat. The photos don’t do justice to experience of being in the space and watching the light stream through the perforations.
Explain which aspect you would do again next time, and which you wouldn’t
As a practice, we like the process of making and enjoy watching it. So visiting the Coleford Brick & Tile factory in Gloucestershire was a real pleasure. It is easy to assume that a brick is something that you can get off the shelf and is easy to produce, but it is only after visiting the workshop that you begin to appreciate how much works goes into making it.
As the landscaping is a key component to the base of the screen, it would have been good to have worked with a landscape team on the external spaces early in the process. Unfortunately, the arrival of the pandemic prevented this.
GIFA cost per m2 £1500
Project name Ferrings
Author Williams Griffiths Architects
Builder Qube Special Projects
Structural engineer Matthew Wells, Techniker
Joinery Paxman Joinery
Building control MLM Building Control
Bricks Coleford Brick & Tile
Concrete worktop Stephen White – White & Reid