The practice was originally briefed to create a garden annex to replace a potting shed and greenhouse that the older children could move in to. The arrival of an eighth child midway through the design stages prompted a rethink of this arrangement and resulted in a change of plan: the calm and convenience of the new annex was deemed to be the ideal retreat for parents with a new baby and younger children whilst the main house would become the older children’s domain.
The garden annex needed to be distinctly different from the original house to bring an element of surprise and delight when discovered at the end of this huge private space – the family’s very own secret garden.
The design of The Garden House has been driven by three challenges, including the families ambitious requirement for increased space; the need to incorporate compulsory flood-proofing measures due to the site’s close proximity to the River Thames; as well as complying with planning restrictions to prevent the overlooking of neighbouring properties – the studio certainly had their work cut out!
Not only does a project this unique in an urban location have its own requirements, but appealing to personal preferences to bring individuality and personality is always a concern in a built-up environment.
Luxury London living
Lying in a private, sunken courtyard, the new 179m² annex is a house in its own right, comprising five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a study and a kitchen/living room. The garden was excavated to create a high-sided watertight concrete courtyard to protect the impressive building from the Thames. Sitting within a lower platform also allows for more space without affecting the single-storey appearance at garden level. Sliding glazing opens the house to the courtyard, creating unity and seamless transition between interior and exterior. An outdoor kitchen mirrors the interior, where minimalism and monochrome take precedence.
The living space looks onto the new lowered courtyard level and benefits from full height glazing to ensure that – even though on basement level – no natural light is lost. Upstairs, bedrooms are arranged in clean white volumes that gently ‘float’ above and benefit from a combination of internal lightwells and overhead skylights. Top lit hallways and bathrooms connect the volumes. Windows are discreetly located on the side and rear elevations to comply with planning restrictions.
Disconnected from the main home’s garden, entrance is permitted via a bridge, bisecting the white box and marking the entrance. A border of flowerbeds and a canopy of trees create the secrecy that the young family required. To add to this annex’s decadence, a further secret eden lies beyond the courtyard with a central hot tub feature.
It is the sunken courtyard, characterised by white pigmented concrete walls and floor that defines The Garden House and lends the house an exotic sensibility. The space offers a seamless transition to a tranquil enclosed landscape in which to escape London life.
A playful improbability of form manifests itself throughout the scheme: from a floating dining table cantilevered from the kitchen worktop to the apparent mass of the upper volumes that appear to float above a glass wall. This playfulness was a key aspiration for the project to add to the surprise and delight of discovering a house at the bottom of a garden.
Unlike other elaborate high-end garden rooms, The Garden House oozes tranquility and modernity with its cool and classy sculptural form. The innovative concept of lowering the building into, what the architects have named, ‘a swimming pool in reverse’ not only overcomes the waterproofing challenges of this location, but also urban issues of garden privacy.
De Matos Ryan create simple, imaginative and well detailed modern environments incorporating all disciplines from landscape to interiors. The architects have developed a strong reputation in delivering good quality contemporary work within historic and often culturally sensitive contexts.
Close collaboration with clients create a strong working relationship that engenders an open and flexible approach. Each commission provides a blank canvas where they creatively enable specific ambitions. De Matos Ryan have truely outdone themselves with The Garden House.