04 Mar 2015

Hackney haven: Victorian terraced home undergoes a full refurb


Inspired by a renovation project that their previous neighbours had completed, Jack and Georgia Giles decided to fully refurbish their newly purchased East London Victorian terrace.


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Jack and Georgia were so impressed with the work that Scenario Architecture had done for their neighbours that they decided to use the same architecture studio for the renovation of their new home in East London’s popular Borough of Hackney.

The Giles’ new house stood unchanged for over 30 years and was in need of a substantial overhaul. The couple’s vision was to draw greater connection between the house and the kitchen extension that sat one metre below the rest of the ground floor. Within this reorganisation of the internal layout, they also wanted to achieve a better relationship between the ground floor and the garden, as well as create more space for future visitors.

Inner-city limitations

Scenario Architecture took on the design and oversaw all project management. This project held several challenges for the studio: to create a habitable space in the loft without including a dormer and to incorporate a fireplace that doesn't use coal or logs due to the property's position within a smoke control area.

The studio’s Director, Ran Ankory explains how these obstacles were overcome: "The attic space has been transformed into a habitable environment by lowering the floor. It now has a new lounge space with log stove and pod seating that could also provide guest accommodation – something that was important to Jack and Georgia.

"For the fireplace, we had to allow for smokeless fuel whilst retaining our original design concept. We consulted specialists who said we had to enclose the area in the glass to create the draw for the fire to work correctly. However, we worked around this by lowering the fire pit to create a small enclosure by the concrete bench, placing the chimneystack to the left hand side. The fire works beautifully, exactly as if it were enclosed on all sides."

Exceeding expectations

The project totalled only 2% over the original budget of £170,000 and completed within the predicted 17 weeks.

The finished renovation goes above and beyond Jack and Georgia’s project brief. The ground floor has the original staircase leading up to the first floor, but is now stepped down to meet the kitchen that was previously cut off from the living areas. This opens up the space and creates a calming flow throughout the divided levels.

The choice of fixed furniture such as bookcases and fireplaces help to define areas within the open-plan rooms. Ran continues: "With the ground floor opened up it was important to clearly define spaces for different activities. This has been achieved through incorporating built-in features. The reception room now has a small cosy space around a bespoke fireplace, whilst the kitchen and dining is separated by an island, with this definition further enhanced by a carefully placed window seat."

Fluid design

The fluid design incorporates storage and seating within the room’s mould. Sunk into walls and jotting out of alcoves, these utilise space and create divisions whilst still maintaining an aesthetic and minimalist flow. Collaborations between wood and white sit neatly beside the exposed brickwork of the building’s Victorian shell. New skylights above the dining room flood the extension with natural light, which travels up the stepped ground floor into the main living space.

Rooflights have also been incorporated into the new attic living space. No space is wasted as the corners of the slanted ceiling echo the same structured moulding as the ground floor by including embedded seating areas – no void has been left unutilised. Here, much in the same manner as the ground level, clean lines and softs joins unite walls, ceiling and storage.

Durable materials

Bedrooms on the first floor have been renovated with a lowering of the ceiling to accommodate the extra living space in the attic. The rooms have also been reconfigured to gain an en-suite. Compared to the rest of the house, these rooms remain more traditional, especially evident in the skirting and architraves – a traditional contrast to the striking moulded minimalist designs seen on the ground floor and attic.

Scenario Architecture’s signature style is clearly displayed within the new home’s design – especially evident in the project’s material specification. Durable materials have been used that show natural colour, including a concrete floor which benefits from underfloor heating. This material offers an inexpensive surface that can produce seamless areas as opposed to other surfacing options, such as tiles.

Another surfacing aspect that the family would recommend to others is the blackboards that have been incorporated in the kitchen and living room. These have been included to create storage and child-friendly play spaces that are both fun and work as a kitchen focal feature that is refreshingly different to traditional wall finishes.

Ran continues: "The finished space has achieved the vast majority of our intentions. By finalising the design in 3D we were able to fully realise the project before we were on site meaning the clients already understood what they were getting. One part of the original design that was lost was the attic fireplace. This would have complemented the unusual fireplace on the ground floor, but due to height requirements it could not be achieved, meaning we opted for a stove in its place."

Tailored design

He continues: "Lowering the ground floor level from front to back is my favourite aspect of the finished project because this is what really makes a difference to the house. It connects what was a disjointed ground floor and makes the house more practical for family living."

Finally, Ran offers his advice to anyone looking to renovate a terraced property: "My advice is to thoroughly consider what it is you want to get from the property – ask yourself how the space could better work to suit your needs. With this in mind, carefully consider what is achievable and trust that – with the right team on board – it can be achieved."

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