29 Sep 2015

Thinking outside the box


Renowned for his innovative use of timber cladding and cubic structures, architect Adam Knibb has transformed his own home thanks to a cubic extension.


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With a background in one-off residential architecture, architect Adam Knibb has used his own home to demonstrate his modern architectural preferences and skill as an architect. Having lived in his white rendered, Victorian semi-detached for over two years, in 2012 he came up with a proposal to transform the Winchester property into something extraordinary.

Although the property’s ground floor provided ample room, the two small bedrooms on the first floor lacked space and felt unbalanced, as Adam explains: “We were inspired to extend out of necessity for greater space upstairs. Being an architect and coming from a construction background – my father owns a construction company – it seemed apt to put our own ‘stamp’ on the property, with the added benefit of gaining extra space.”

The property’s previous owners had been keen DIY-ers, which unfortunately had left the ground floor in dire need of an overhaul. So, as well as providing extra space on the first floor, the redesign needed to reconstruct the leaking rear lean with an extension.

The simple white rendered property created the perfect backdrop for a visually stunning statement. The need to create extra space upstairs and to refurbish the existing extension on the ground floor provided Adam with two elements in which to test his architectural prowess. The new design has pushed the boundaries of traditional semi-detached properties and creates a contemporary statement from both front and back.

“We decided to completely juxtapose the contemporary extension with the original architecture. This provided me with the opportunity to demonstrate my expertise in contemporary design as well as allowing a structure that is of its own time, rather than a pastiche,” says Adam.

Contrasting extension

The revisioned home incorporates a cantilevered timber box extension that allows space for a new master bedroom, ensuite and larger family bathroom on the first floor, without jeopardising the useful off-road parking space below. The home’s rear benefits from magnificent views of the south downs. This has been harnessed on the first floor, where the elevated timber structure acts as a camera obscurer to focus and indulge on the surrounding vistas. The new ground floor extension tucks neatly under the wing of the first floor. The parking space and similar boxed design on the ground floor extension provides a visually impressive illusion of supporting the upper timber box.

Clad in cedar, the first floor timber cube has been set back as far as possible from the street and front elevation of the house. The ground floor now supports a more relaxed, open plan living style thanks to a new kitchen/dining space. Well-positioned skylights allow natural light to flood into the ground floor, whilst emphasising the impressive levitating presence of the floor above.

The interior scheme is industrial and makes use of raw materials. A theme of concrete, timber and animal skin sits within a minimalist monochrome palette. The result is an uncomplicated, yet on-trend, space. Timber cladding has been used on both external and internal walls. The kitchen worktop – which Adam installed himself – proudly displays craft scarring, which is unashamedly raw and serves beautifully alongside industrial-styled barstools and the poured concrete flooring. A structural beam penetrates the worktop surface, adding further to the industrial feel.

The property aims to bring the outdoors in by using extensive glazing. A vibrant purple splashback has been used in the kitchen, a statement that has been echoed on the adjoining outside wall to parallel interior with exterior. Bi-folding doors and floor to ceiling, single pane windows open the interior onto the garden. The new master bedroom on the first floor also has a large floor to ceiling, single pane window, where safety is maintained thanks to a glass balustrade.

When it came to material and product specification, Adam already had a good idea of which materials would work well for the project thanks to his professional industry insight. The new polymetric render acts as a modern take on the existing building form and the timber cladding mimics the trees surrounding the house. Adam has also installed his own polished concrete flooring and worktops. Doing jobs like this himself meant hard work, but huge financial benefits.

Living alongside the build

The young family found the main challenge of the project to be living in the house whilst the works were going on. As Adam explains: “We didn’t have the additional money to rent anywhere, so we just had to put up with the dust and dirt. Looking back, it would have been good to stretch the finances further and move out for the build duration.”

The project took the young family nine months, mostly due to the fact they were living in the property and that they were carrying out a lot of the work themselves. In total, the project has cost them approximately £65k.

The finished property, which they call ‘The Cube’, has not only created much-needed extra space for the young family, but also acts as a testament to Adam’s skill as an architect. Adam continues: “We are really happy with the final result. An important factor was to change the darkness of the original house into a light and enjoyable environment, and we feel we have fulfilled this brief. The building gives a very modern and contemporary impact onto its landscape, whilst responding positively to the natural surroundings. We’ve received a good response from the local community; however, modern architecture does tend to bring up differences in opinion.

“My advice to anyone looking to extend or self-build is to plan everything as far as possible in advance. Look at the lead times on items – especially key components, such as windows – and try to make sure individual timings won’t affect your overall project timeframe.”

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