05 Jun 2018

A reflective reading room

An elegant reading room has been created for retired couple David and Frances Turner in Belsize Park, north London. The extension is a smart and simple solution to create a reflective space within their home for study and reading.


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Built from a folding facade of glass and oak cladding, Studio Carver delivered a spacious and light-filled extension within a confined north London garden that is a characterful addition to the property and sympathetic to the original house.

David explains: “We have been living in the house for just over 40 years and raised our three children here. Over the years, to respond to our family's changing needs, we’ve improved and extended the house but now we’re both retired and are spending more time at home. We wanted to create a new, more intimate space just for us, somewhere we could work or read quietly but still be connected to the rest of the house and garden.

“We engaged the architectural practice Studio Carver to work with us on the project. Keith from Studio Carver had done work for my daughter's and son's families so we were interested in getting him involved at our house as well.

“We worked closely with Studio Carver from day one, developing the project brief, concept designs and all the technical detail. I worked as a Building Surveyor as a young man, so was keen to be involved in most stages of the project development.”

The 6m2 extension is designed around a large picture window projecting out into the patio and garden. The new study encloses against an existing garden wall with bespoke joinery and desks. The soft, minimal facade complements the brickwork of the 1950s property whilst oak lining internally establishes a peaceful continuity of materials inside.

David continues: “We wanted lots of glass and designed the extension around a large picture window projecting out to the patio and garden. At the same time, we had to be mindful of the extension’s southern exposure – so we had to be aware of too much glass and overheating.

“The new study encloses against an existing garden wall taking advantage of an underused part of our side garden. My wife and I have a large collection of books we have gathered over the years dispersed all over our house. We wanted to bring them all together into this new extension. Studio Carver designed bespoke shelving, storage and desk space that was carefully integrated in the building form. The result is a really seamless aesthetic, you don’t know where furniture ends and building begins.”

The interior of the reading room is created from tableau of oak timber, which form the ample shelving, storage and desk spaces in the study. The continuation of material creates a constant colour palette that blends textures from indoor to outdoor.

“We also wanted to ensure that the new addition tied in with the existing house, so we used some of the timber cladding on the extension to clad elements of the existing house,” explains David. “I think this did a great job bringing old and new together. Using the same material inside and outside establishes a strong connection between inside and out, which was very important to us.”

Rather than break up the canvas of glazing with openings or adjustments, ventilation to the room is brought in via a slit in the adjacent oak cladding. This allows for an an unobstructed stream of light to brighten up the home without the need for energy-demanding air conditioning.

An additional skylight at the rear of the study allows for more light to filter down into room, with glass and timber infilling the triangular gap between the existing building and garden wall.

Outside, oak clad planters extend along the garden wall and stitch the building into the existing landscape. The old bricks provide a textured and warm backdrop to the new oak lining, flowers and greenery. A small bench seat set on top of the planters allows occupants to sit amongst their flowers and rest against the old garden wall.

David adds: “Externally, we created a new planter and seating area in our garden as part of the works. We continued with the same oak cladding along the planter which we feel stitches the building into the existing landscape. The new planter and seat looks fantastic against the old brick garden wall. The contrast of old rustic brick and the new timber cladding is striking.”

Studio Carver Founder, Keith Carver, says: “It was really exciting working with David and Frances who have raised three children in the house since the 1970s, improving and extending the property over time to adapt to their family’s changing needs. Now both retired, this new change and addition creates a more intimate space just for them, for reading, work and reflection.”

David says: “From the start, Keith was dedicated to having a thorough understanding of what we wanted from our new home office. Having worked with many architects in the past, it is rare to find one who really takes the time to listen to their client and who doesn’t impose their own vision of the project.

“Keith’s ability to listen to us, and his thorough understanding of the brief, has helped us to facilitate our lifestyle change of working from home, and created a pleasing addition to the house.

“The local community has really positively received the project. We were shortlisted for a Camden Design Award and Don’t Move, Improve! 2018 Award. We have also just heard from Camden Council that they want to use the project as a precedent in their Design Guides as a good example of an alteration to an existing home where the extension is sympathetic to the original house.

“The finished project is more than we had ever imagined we could achieve in such a confined site. It has exceeded all our expectations.”

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