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21 Apr 2022

The Perfect ‘Muse’ for a Mews House Project

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International architecture and interiors practice Finkernagel Ross has designed a new-build property situated within the Holland Park conservation area of west London just north of Kensington High Street and south of Holland Park Avenue.

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The Victorian mews was built by William Scott, a Brickmaker based in Hammersmith, and originally served as the stable house accommodation for the main houses on the surrounding streets; however, the primary purpose of the mews properties is now residential.

As one of the most exciting cities globally, London attracts people from all over, whether they come here to live full-time or only part of the year. This was indeed the case with Finkernagel Ross’ hotelier client, who decided that now was the time to take a part-time leap to new adventures in London. The ideal property didn’t need to be spacious – it just needed to feel large, and if it was centrally located with easy access to all that London has to offer, that would be welcomed too.

Here, Catherine Finkernagel, Director of Finkernagel Ross, explains how she approached the project and offers inspiration to those home renovators looking to take on similar projects.

What inspired you to take on this project?
The client had a vision that sat well with our core work and values. It helps that it’s a lovely mews in a beautiful part of town, too.

How did you combine the original building’s style with the extension?
The client’s brief required more space than the original building possessed. To accommodate everything, the property would have had to be extended upwards in the form of a mansard roof and downwards in the form of a basin. That, coupled with reorganising each of the remaining floors, meant that it was easier to rebuild the property from scratch, which is what we did.

What was the vision and inspiration behind the property?
Our client is a hotelier from Sweden. The vision was for open, airy and light aesthetics, which were also calm and natural.

How did you approach finalising your design brief?
Finalising the design brief with our client is a process that takes many weeks and months but starts with a very detailed questionnaire that we ask them to answer. The questions range from the very practical to the very emotional.

How long did it take to gain planning permission?
12 weeks approximately. In all, the project took three years, from start to finish. However, that included statutory permissions and delays due to coronavirus, the latter of which was a considerable challenging aspect to the project and build.

How did you approach material and product specification?
Our client had a very strong vision of what they wanted. Natural materials and simplicity were key.

Did you remain within the original budget?
Costs did go up, but mainly due to delays on site and material costs increasing.

Please provide an overview of the finished space.
Considerable experience in this type of project meant that we were able to navigate our client through the mundane, but necessary, statutory issues – like planning, fire escapes, waterproofing, sprinkler systems and temporary structures – and give them a three-bedroom home that is light, bright and, most importantly, spacious in feel. Understanding how the house would be used allowed us to refine the efficiency of the layout so that doors and corridors were a thing of the past and all of the space could be enjoyed and used to its maximum potential. The original brief was to refurbish the building, but it quickly became apparent with the addition of a new basement and top-floor (mansard roof) that the project would be more cost effective and quicker to construct as a new build. These two additional floors have transformed this property into a spacious and bright home inclusive of three bedrooms, two bathrooms, one WC, two receptions, a kitchen and a dining room, and the home now feels much bigger than it actually is - much the same as a terraced house but in half the space.

New features, such as floor-to-ceiling French doors, sash windows and light shafts along with Juliet balconies, allow more light to enter the property and contribute to a front facade with proportions that are much more refined and pleasing to the eye. The conservation area status of the property means that the external materials chosen had to be in keeping with the surrounding neighbourhood, but the reclaimed brick provides an elegance to the property – as well as tied the property once again back to the maker of the mews, William Scott – not seen before with the light lavender render.

What does the local community think of the refurbishment?
They love it and welcome the improvement of the landscape of the mews.

What do you love most about the building?
As architects and designers, we love the calm, bright and open layout and simple material pallet. The master bedroom is my favourite room. The French doors offer a grandness to the space, and the room’s proportions are such that you would never know it’s a mews house until you step outside.

What advice would you offer to anyone looking to renovate or self-build?
Go for it. If you hire the right professional who will guide you to your dream home, then you have nothing to lose.

Are there any particular materials that you would recommend to those looking to renovate or self-build?
This didn’t apply to this project, but modular construction and offsite fabrication are huge contributors to saving time.

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