Reorganising the ground-floor layout made the terraced house on Copeland Road better suited to modern family life, says practice director Tom Gresford
Who is the project for and what was the brief?
We were commissioned by Mark and Jane Dolan to extend and remodel their terraced house in Walthamstow, east London, to create a home better suited to modern family life. More importantly, however, Mark and Jane an opportunity to address climate change with a healthy home that prioritises energy efficiency and high-quality design. They were exceptional clients, driven to create something wonderful, and we developed a close, collaborative and very fulfilling relationship with them.
Describe the project, including its context and the building it is extending
The existing building is a three-storey, four-bedroom Victorian terraced house. The original layout was awkward, with poor circulation between the kitchen and dining room, and no direct access between the living spaces and the garden.
We extended and reorganised the ground floor layout, lowering the floor level slightly to create a more comfortable and habitable interior. The open-plan kitchen and dining room has clear access to a play/living room and the outside, linking all ground floor living spaces with the garden. A new roof extension contains a guest bedroom and additional bathroom.
Tell us about the external treatment
The ground floor and roof extensions feature a playful arrangement of differently pitched roofs and angles – made possible thanks to a CLT frame, and referencing the domestic architectural language of the street’s surrounding backland extensions. The extensions read as crisp and contemporary additions, with charred timber cladding that provides a robust yet pleasing contrast with the brick of the original house.
To the front, we have replaced unattractive uPVC windows with traditional-style sash windows to match the style of windows in neighbouring properties. This has restored the historic character of the street elevation and enhanced the architectural coherence of the wider streetscape.
How about inside?
We exploited the flexibility and strength of the extension’s CLT frame, with the multiple roof pitches allowing for soaring double-height spaces within that are full of light and visual interest. Exposed timber surfaces also add tactility and warmth, and offer strong contrasts to other materials including cast concrete and expressed structural elements. Together all materials – CLT, steel, concrete and historic brick – combine to create airy and elegant interiors that are peaceful and intriguing.
Describe one challenge
A ‘pure’ CLT frame has no steel, but the forms of the building and the volumes we wanted to achieve meant this wasn’t possible. However, we soon realised the architectural possibilities of using steel elements that could accentuate the bold internal volumes of the space, including the floating corner in the dining area. So although this isn’t a purely CLT structure, the expression of the steel that resulted from what we at first thought was a compromise has been very satisfactory.
What is your favourite moment in the project?
At the heart of the house there is a double-height void, rising through the ground and first floors to bring in additional light and a sense of space. I love how it provides a real moment of drama – emphasised by the contrast between the CLT and historic exposed brick walls. It lays bare the radical transformation we were able to bring to the home’s internal layout and the generosity of the new family living spaces.
Which aspect would you do again next time?
We love using CLT – a material that is not only structural and sustainable (because of the carbon captured and stored in the wood) but also beautiful and textural. We will be using it again. But the key element of the project, which is in our view the essence of what we enjoy most in our work, was the collaborative design and construction process with the client. I am firmly of the belief that the best projects emerge from trust, collaboration and imagination.
Project title Copeland Road
Project location Walthamstow, London
Total contract cost £450,000
GIFA cost per m2 £2,650
Client Mark and Jane Dolan
Architect Gresford Architects
Contractor Form Design and Build
Structural engineer Structure Workshop CLT
Specialist subcontractor Construkt CLT