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Indulgent materials and finishes mark Hyde + Hyde’s Quatrefoil House, Oxford

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Words:
Jan-Carlos Kucharek

Hyde + Hyde has turned a run-down Victorian house into a sumptuous, considered home that emphasises fine detail in a quatrefoil-themed finish

It’s curious to think that a trope of Christian architecture should constitute the symbolic theme for home of a motor industry executive’s family in central Oxford’s affluent northern fringes. But when Hyde + Hyde was approached by the client to refurbish and extend a large but dilapidated late Victorian villa, a former student house, it was the quatrefoil form that endured for the architects during their site visits to the city; this and a love of Louis Sullivan’s early modernist, symbolism laden work. 

Kristian Hyde says the university city’s Quatrefoils are ‘hidden in plain sight’ – and so is the luxury of the home. The refurbishment was a two-year labour of love, with a sizeable, cantilevered kitchen extension making up the fourth ‘petal’ of the plan’s own quatrefoil. And just as the one above the entrance porch inspired the architect, so did the villa’s other ornamentation. While the extension’s principal street elevation seems a blank wall of brick, existing mouldings not only form its datum lines but are expressed as concrete indentations across its surface. A great black steel beam transfers the load, studded with quatrefoils of hand-cast bronze, projecting at the corners past the steel to allow the sky to be read through their interface. It is all held up by what appears to be a wilful, sculptural arc of precast concrete, reducing to a point where it hits the ground. But in fact this is a material inversion of the polychromatic brick arch that frames the windows of the villa’s main stair.

Two large reception rooms are incorporated into the main body of the house.
Two large reception rooms are incorporated into the main body of the house. Credit: Michael Sinclair

Interiors are impressive and on occasion excessive. An oversized engineered timber parquet floor reflects not only the scale of the open plan lower-level reception spaces but also the herringbone brick seen on the villa’s facade. At the entrance, a new grand staircase of American black walnut winds up and away to transfer you to the more private family rooms, past a 12m long chandelier hanging in its well. With 437 glass teardrops at the end of each fibre optic wire, the whole thing was hand blown in Wales and runs from the roof to the basement entertainment level. Two large reception rooms with beautiful bespoke, black-painted steel mantelpieces can be seen beyond full-height glass partition walls and floor to ceiling height walnut doors – each inset at handle level with push plates of inlaid carbon fibre, a nod to the car industry.

Over a bridge at the far end and there’s a kitchen turbo-charged with more automotive references – units of dark steel panels, knurled steel hob knobs, poured resin floors of your dream mechanic’s and floor to ceiling glass walls upgraded with a huge, retractable rooflight that slides back to open the space to the sky – a form of kitchen cabriolet. Tiny fibre optic cat’s eyes beneath every wine bottle in the architect-designed wine rack glow through the bottles by night – like a dash light assuring you there’s plenty in the tank even if your glass is empty.

  • Reception rooms use a luxurious palette of oak and dark leather, with bespoke steelwork
    Reception rooms use a luxurious palette of oak and dark leather, with bespoke steelwork Credit: Michael Sinclair
  • A bridge crosses to the kitchen extension. The wine rack is architect-designed.
    A bridge crosses to the kitchen extension. The wine rack is architect-designed. Credit: Michael Sinclair
  • The master bedroom continues the palette of oak and luxurious dark blue leather on walls and storage. An opening leads to a narrow dressing room and marble bathroom beyond.
    The master bedroom continues the palette of oak and luxurious dark blue leather on walls and storage. An opening leads to a narrow dressing room and marble bathroom beyond. Credit: Michael Sinclair
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Hyde + Hyde designed more than 90 bespoke components for the home, from bronze door tabs to the cantilevering beds which, though identical in design, have surrounds that shift in spec – from cute patterns for the young kids to minimalist grey felt for the elder son, and sophisticated midnight blue leather for the parents. The main bedroom’s walk-in wardrobe, while run with doors of glass or that rich leather, seems surprisingly parsimonious spatially but leads to a large white marble ensuite that reflects the specification throughout – a blast of Boffi faucets, TOTO toilets, standalone baths and carwash-sized showers. Some of the ceramic sinks here even glow. But in counterpoint to the reception areas – in particular the lower-level family room, cinema and gym space, which seems indulgently large – bedrooms are, as you would wish, more intimate.

It’s a far better driver than me that would negotiate the sports car in the hair-pin manoeuvre from the forecourt down past the upturned concrete gothic arch to the car port below the kitchen extension; and Corb might have seen the move as contra to the ideal of utility – but then Quatrefoil House never was about form follows function. Or was it? Viewed from below, I note that the extension’s chamfered projections exactly align with the main roof pitch. ‘Well, the chamfer is 45° so the roof pitch must be the same,’ surmises Kay Hyde almost instantly. And looking at it, I do believe she’s right: a Pythagorean truth hidden in Hyde + Hyde’s divine plan. 

Hyde + Hyde designed more than 90 bespoke components for the home, from bronze door tabs to cantilevering beds

  • The entrance area, set with herringbone timber floors, opens to the grand stair, down to the entertainment spaces and across to the kitchen.
    The entrance area, set with herringbone timber floors, opens to the grand stair, down to the entertainment spaces and across to the kitchen. Credit: Michael Sinclair
  • The 3D modelled stair, constructed in American black walnut, winds its way to the top of the house. A handmade
    The 3D modelled stair, constructed in American black walnut, winds its way to the top of the house. A handmade Credit: Michael Sinclair
  • The main street elevation of the extension is blank, deferring to the Victorian villa. Its stairwell was the inspiration for the extension’s concrete pier.
    The main street elevation of the extension is blank, deferring to the Victorian villa. Its stairwell was the inspiration for the extension’s concrete pier. Credit: Martin Gardner
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Credits

Lead designer/architect Hyde + Hyde Architects
Contract architect Riach Architects
Client Private
Structural engineer Mann Williams Engineering
M&E Ridge Property & Construction Consultants
Contractor G Dighton & Sons
Quantity surveyor Ridge Property & Construction Consultants
Energy consultant Melin Energy Consultants
Planning consultant Kemp & Kemp
Arboriculture surveyor Lockhart Garratt
Site surveyor MK Survey

Suppliers

Manufacturers Ad Hoc Designs, Pietersen Fine
Specialist furniture Precast Products
Concrete column specialist Precast Products 
Stair (internal and external), quatrefoil sets, etc. Ad Hoc Designs
Cabinets and joinery Pietersen Fine Furniture 
Kitchen and bathrooms Boffi
Rain light Neil Wilkin and UFO lighting
Living room light Flos
Kitchen roof light Meia
Desk Walter Knoll
Rug Riviere Rugs
Rug/bedding Larusi

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