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21 Oct 2021

A Celebration of Materials and Crafts

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Matthew Giles Architects has redesigned and upgraded this six-bedroom Victorian house in Wandsworth with surgical care and a close study of the site levels.

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The London-based practice has lavished care and attention on this home. Almost like a stage set, levels have been used to create a space that is both singular and comprises three distinct parts. The first faces onto the street, the second acts as a reading nook, then the final sunken space looks out over the garden. The kitchen sits within this last space.

White oak joinery and railings define the upper spaces. Here, expressed Douglas fir timber cranked beams add warmth and texture to the area. The kitchen acts as a point around which other activities flow. The exposed beams create an enhanced light quality and sense of order when looking along the length of the house towards the garden and framing views as you move through the house. The kitchen features timber cabinetry and white Carrara marble surfaces, and the exposed London stock brickwork covering the sidewall matches the restrained colour palette of the rest of the house.

Polished concrete floors flow from the ground floor to the external terrace, helping blur the boundaries between inside and outside spaces, especially when the full-height doors are opened. The design has been executed so that in all areas, there is an intimate connection with nature. Seated within the lofty, vaulted dining space, the view is framed by two in-situ cast concrete columns that are filleted to broaden the surroundings.

A new ‘den’ adds to the mix of living spaces in the basement, brightly lit by openings in the floor above and a capping skylight. The lightwell also creates a visual connection between the playroom and the kitchen. Behind the playroom, a new en-suite bedroom and utility room have been added to enhance the living space.

This project is a celebration of materials and crafts. The combination of raw materials and their refinement elevates the everyday. The effortlessness of the composition allows simple things like the quality of light and visual connection to others comes to the fore.

Here, i-Build Editor, Rebecca Kemp, talks to homeowner, Amanda Young, about her and her husband, Kevin’s, project and finds out what drove them to extend their family home.

RK: What inspired you to take on this project?
AY We saw what some of our friends had achieved with their refurbishment schemes. Therefore, we knew that we could deliver a dramatic transformation if we approached the project well.

RK: Have you always wanted to pursue your own project?
AY: No, not really! But with our family being so young, we thought it was now or never.

RK: Please talk us through the idea behind extending this house.
AY: We had a home in the right area but situated on a tight, constrained site with limited access. We approached the project with hopes that an extension and reconfiguration would help accommodate our growing family.

RK: What style and age is the original building?
AY: It’s a 19th-century Victorian terraced home.

RK: How did you combine the building’s style with the extension?
AY: Timber, stone, concrete, brick and Corten steel contrast with the external and internal fabric, and inside, the new parquet flooring guides the eye through the lobby towards the light that floods in from the garden.

RK: What was the vision and inspiration behind your new home?
AY: We needed to expand the useable space in the home and improve the perception of space within the house’s social areas. We also sought materials that would provide a refined, contemporary feel.

RK: How did you approach finalising your design brief?
AY: We discussed everything with Matthew Giles Architects, collaboratively looking at what was achievable with our budget and looking for ways to push beyond the things we see ‘everywhere’.

RK: How long did it take to gain planning permission?
AY: Matthew Giles Architects were appointed on 31st January 2018, and planning was granted on 30th May 2018.

RK: Were there any challenging aspects to the project?
AY: In the early stages, we were unsure how we’d be able to increase the size of the house.

RK: Did you project manage the build yourself?
AY: No. Matthew Giles Architects project managed the build. The team helped us formulate our ideas into a meaningful plan and maximise the house’s potential. The new layout is a vast improvement, and there is a balance between the amount of space gained and the loss of garden area. Although modest, the internal work has given us an exciting place. It’s not just white walls and floor; there is a good mix of materials and an enhanced light flow throughout the ground and basement levels.

RK: How did you approach material and product specification?
AY: Two of the critical parts of the brief were to increase light flow throughout and general spatial quality and to improve the visual connections throughout the ground floor. The consistent use of timber helps to tie together the separate parts of the house, and the tone of the natural materials also helps to add warmth to the light flowing through the house. What’s more, all the materials had to be robust, able to withstand the considerable wear and tear of a large family.

RK: Are there any particular materials you recommend to others?
AY: Tadelakt, which is the polished plaster that we used in the main family bathroom.

RK: When was the project completed?
AY: We completed the project in March 2021, and we moved in towards the end of April 2021.

RK: Did you remain within the original budget?
AY: We did go a little over budget. The costs increased due to the tight and constrained site that had limited access – this added difficulty and cost to the build process.

RK: How does the building respond to its surrounding landscape?
AY: Corten steel was chosen to clad the exterior parts of the new extension; its mottled colouration will age well and integrate with the buff brick of the surrounding properties.

RK: Is the finished space everything that you hoped it would be?
AY: It still amazes us how subtle the works are from the street and the garden; you barely know we have added two extra bedrooms.

RK: What do you love most about your new home?
AY: The materials and surfaces change every single day. As the light changes throughout the year, it brings out different aspects of the grain and variations.

RK: What’s your favourite room?
AY: The kitchen is essential to us as a family. Yet, the den has quite a lot of drama, with shadows drifting down the brickwork wall and clouds that are framed in the skylight two storeys overhead.

RK: Would you do the whole thing again?
AY: Though we knew that we would have to do some renovations when we first bought this property, we aren’t serial renovators. For us, the goal was to increase the number of bedrooms for the growing family and relatives coming to stay. Now that the four-bedroom house has become a six-bedroom house with excellent open-plan living space, it really works for the way that we live. All services and storage are in the basement. and we have a tranquil area on the ground floor that’s free of clutter. Perhaps if we needed to increase our space even further, we’d consider taking on another project.

RK: What advice would you offer to anyone looking to renovate?
AY: Even before you engage an architect or builder, it is essential to know what you are willing to sacrifice. We wanted an improvement internally, even if that meant sacrificing a small part of the garden. By occupying the infill, more space has been provided to accommodate our family.

We have a small courtyard garden at the rear, so the space gained feels balanced. We prefer the exterior spaces to be easy to manage, so our courtyard is low maintenance, meaning it’s always ready to host our outdoor meals and entertaining.

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