01 Mar 2017

nimtim architects renovates one-bedroom garden flat


A young, professional couple wanted to renovate and reconfigure their Victorian one-bedroom garden flat in Herne Hill, London. The couple appointed nimtim architects to create something beautiful as well as practical.


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The brief to nimtim architects was to create an additional bedroom that could be rented temporarily to help pay off the cost of the project and might later be used as a guest/spare/nursery/living room depending on circumstances, as well as extending and modernising the flat overall.

The design needed to accommodate several alternative future scenarios. Therefore, the key move was to design a large, flexible living space at the rear of the property that could adapt easily to be used as a communal room in a flat-share or as a family space for a couple or small family.

A bold and simple square space was created at the rear: the kitchen was moved along one wall allowing the rest of the space to be as flexible as possible – able to accommodate the living area, dining table, play area, study zone as required. The living space is punctuated by big and bold window openings, flooding the interior with light and creating new visual connections from the rear bedroom across a small external courtyard and living space to the garden beyond, as well as increasing the natural light into the north-facing rear elevation.

A limited budget meant a focus on creating large, flexible spaces using simple but characterful materials and a playful colour palette to add a new modern layer to the traditional architecture of the house.

Forticrete’s concrete masonry blocks in a Splitface finish were specified for the extension of the flat. Nimi Attanayake and Tim O’Callaghan, Co-founders of nimtim, comment: “Materially, the palette was driven by a very tight budget but also a brief to be bold and playful. For the exterior, to add a new modern layer to the traditional architecture of the property, we specified Forticrete’s Splitfaced architectural masonry in ivory – an extremely cost-effective alternative to natural hewn stone. The blocks highlight the new addition yet still references the existing property’s masonry characteristics and the variety of texture in the original London Stock brickwork. The picture window and double doors are recessed into the blockwork – giving depth to the rear facade.”

Forticrete’s Dense Concrete Masonry blocks are manufactured using up to 45% recycled concrete, depending on the product selected. Part of the company’s ECOBLOCK range of masonry, these decorative concrete facing blocks are available in various finishes, profiles and a wide variety of exciting colours to ensure that architects and specifiers have access to an array of sustainable yet attractive solutions that will help make any building stand out from the crowd.

Speaking about their project, property owners Rachel and Jonnie comment: “We wanted a space that maximised light, and was bright and open. We moved the living space to the back for a better connection with the garden and a sense of privacy. We used a neutral palette of materials and colours to act as a blank canvas for furniture, items and prints picked up on trips abroad. The yellow accent is a playful and bold addition that frames the outside space and brightens the room. We worked with Ceramic Designer Emma Louise Payne to create a bespoke tiled splashback that brings a handmade touch in a mixture of greens to complement the yellow.”

Internally, new and existing pine floorboards were painted white, bespoke cabinetry was made in treated birch plywood and enlivened by bespoke brass ironmongery. Rachel continues: “Working with talented designers and craftspeople was an incredible opportunity to see the whole process through, and the bespoke tiled splashback gives a handmade feel to the room. I see something different in them everyday!

“The living space is incredible too. When I’m working from home, it’s amazing to see the changing light over the day, and plants absolutely love it – you can fully appreciate daylight from the comfort of inside.

“Finally, the ergonomics of the whole space really work. nimtim did a great job aligning the spaces and centralising the corridor with a view to the garden – we have a much better connection to the outside space now, as well as pockets of storage in spaces we didn’t know existed.”

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