The distinct brick loft extension in Honor Oak Park, south-east London, is expressed as a series of three stepped volumes hosting a bedroom, a study and a bathroom
Tell us about the project
The project is for Ana and Joseph and their two children. The brief emerged out of two significant post-lockdown changes for the family: the arrival of another child and a shift to permanently working from home. Suddenly the family were outgrowing their house and needed more space, while Ana and Joseph wanted a refuge from the rest of the busy youth-filled household, requiring a new bedroom, study and bathroom in the loft.
A new distinct loft crowns the rear roofs of a Victorian terraced house in south-east London, expressed as a series of stepped brick volumes hosting three additional spaces. The massing follows the house’s original L-shape, articulated with brick volumes pulling out of each other like a telescope while creating interstitial apertures for light-filled rooms. The massing playfully tells a story of a growing family as if the house itself is expanding with its residents.
How was the planning process?
Our clients wanted to maximise their loft area but there was concern the council would push back on an imposing and overbearing volume that would have filled the entire footprint of the outrigger. By breaking down the massing into brick frames that scale down in increments and taper in plan we were able to articulate the planning benefits of these design moves, which made a more expressive loft. With nested portals and stepped brick cheeks, the design shows a loft can be characterful and unique while respecting its context and original building fabric.
Explain the external treatment.
Loft conversions are traditionally clad in roof tiles, to blend with the roof. Here, we wanted to assert this new level’s presence in a more contemporary way, while being sympathetic to the colours and materials of the existing house. The natural choice was to use brick, choosing two colours: dark grey, to blend with the existing concrete pantiles, and a lighter London stock brick to complement the original brickwork. Brick cheeks of the outrigger use the same step logic as the overall massing, articulating a rich texture, which casts shadows by day and softly glows at night.
How have the interiors been designed?
Light-filled interiors feature neutral natural materials with exposed timber rafters and exposed original brick, celebrating the stepping brickwork of the original chimney stacks and reinforcing the relationship between inside and outside, old and new. Spaces use elements of fixed furniture such as wardrobes, shelving and desks, designed to optimise use and storage space. Use of wall and indirect lighting gives the clients the flexibility to curate different ambiences in the evening.
Tell us about your favourite moment in the project.
Our favourite moment is the ‘folding’ skylight with the overhanging bricks. It’s a reminder of the nesting brick portals and brings the outside in. We’re also delighted to hear from the clients that it’s not only them enjoying the project – their neighbours love looking at it too!
What was the biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
With its intricate mathematical nature, the biggest challenge was the alignment of each vertical and horizontal row of bricks. Meticulous positioning and balancing were essential. The rows determined internal spaces and window apertures, making recalibration of construction drawings necessary once the opening works commenced and more precise roof measurements were available. We had to ensure that the contractor grasped the geometric complexities and repercussions of not following the specified positions. To address this, diagramming and iterative processes were used to set out the geometry on-site, along with testing and mock-ups of full brick rows.
Which aspect would you repeat next time?
Using full bricks would have been heavy and required unsustainable and costly structural steel upgrades to the existing house. Instead, we opted to use brick slips on a lighter insulated timber structure to create the same effect, while also achieving a better thermal performance for the same thickness of wall. The existing roof tiles and timbers were retained and reused to minimise unnecessary and unsustainable wastage and increase cost-effectiveness. We would adopt the same approach again.
Andre Kong is founder of Andre Kong Studio
Total contract cost: £158,100 (including design and engineering fees)
Gross internal floor area 62m2
Cost per m2 £2,550
Clients Ana and Joseph
Contractor Optimal Developments
Structure Blue Engineering