The atmosphere and feeling of the project was inspired by the restrained palette, simplicity, and muted tones of domestic interiors depicted by Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi in the late 19th and early 20th century. The building was constructed in around 1894, and we wanted to create a long-lasting, quiet, and elegant interior which could last another 120-plus years!
The client fell in love with the property because of its abundance of period features, but it was also cold, draughty, and dark in places. Achieving a more energy-efficient, comfortable home without damaging any period features was perhaps the biggest challenge. In that sense, we approached the project in a very similar way to how we would have if the building was listed: a refurbishment-first approach, only replacing fabric where it was beyond repair. Heat was being lost through draughty, damaged windows and doors and straight through the floorboards, so these were the first focus for improvement.
A 25m2 extension added at the rear of the flat, looking on to the garden, has created a large open-plan kitchen, living and dining space, with the previous dining room becoming a second bedroom.
All these joinery-based additions are designed to stand slightly off the walls, below ceilings and away from skirting boards, picture rails and architraves, to give the often oversized historic features breathing space and avoid disrupting them.
A 25m2 extension was added to the rear of the property. This addition created a large open-plan space, big enough to serve as kitchen, living and dining; and freed up the old dining space to add a second bedroom to the property.
It was important for us to significantly improve the thermal performance of the property in a way that would have the biggest impact for the associated costs. External wall insulation was out of the question in planning terms due to the conservation area restrictions; internal wall insulation would have caused the loss of period features and costly reinstatement; and the large original windows couldn’t be double glazed due to their fine leadwork design. Instead, the existing windows were extensively refurbished, including spliced-in timber repairs, draught sealing, and insulated blinds. On analysis, it became clear that the floor represented an unusually large proportion of the external envelope, as other properties flank it to the sides and above and the floor plan was deep. The existing construction was only joists and floorboards above a ventilated void, so we added around 180mm of insulation across the whole floor. The U value of floor upgraded throughout the apartment to 0.16w/m2k Matt Cooper, director, TYPE
The extension created a very deep plan but keeping its roof low and adding an inclined rooflight at the back has created a space with ample daylight right to the back of the kitchen. The rooflight also provides glimpses of the canopy of the Japanese maple tree from the dining and kitchen spaces.
The atmosphere and feeling of the project – in a building constructed in 1894 – was inspired by the simplicity seen in the domestic interiors depicted by Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi in the late 19th and early 20th century.
We wanted to use traditional materials with an emphasis on craftsmanship and care to restore historic features, such as the leaded windows, intricate plasterwork and oak parquet flooring. Along with the physical features, the skills to work with these materials and techniques are also being lost, and these are processes which we value and enjoy working with.
An en-suite has been added to the main bedroom. In order for this not to affect the original ceilings, architraves or fireplace, this was designed as a freestanding ‘cabinet’ within the room, one which appears as a large piece of joinery matching the new wardrobes. It contains the WC and shower, and divides the room, creating a vanity zone behind.
The interior design could be described as a series of joinery interventions, all of a deliberately neutral character so they remain subservient to the ornate decorative features. A matching design for kitchen units, wardrobes, storage cupboards and panelling is intended to provide continuity throughout the flat.
We added a freestanding ‘cabinet’ to the main bedroom, containing a shower and WC and screening off a vanity space behind. The cabinet is designed to avoid disrupting the ornate features of the room: its sides are pulled slightly away from the walls and it is kept well below the ceiling. By placing the most private activities within the enclosed pod, we created a large en-suite without the need for a full-height dividing wall, which would have disrupted the beautiful plaster ceiling. The cabinet’s low height allows the entire decorative ceiling to be seen as a whole.
TYPE’s design approach was to make only small interventions to preserve as much of the character of the existing and minimise the use of new materials to reduce embodied carbon.
Start on site October 2020 Completion date May 2022 Gross internal floor area 135m² Form of contract or procurement route JCT Minor Works MWD Construction cost Undisclosed Architect TYPE Client Private Structural engineer Blue Engineering Quantity surveyor Robert Martell and Partners Principal designer TYPE Approved building inspector Assent CAD software used AutoCAD
Our approach was to use an economy of means for the whole refurbishment: making small surgical interventions to preserve as much of the character of the existing while minimising the use of new materials to reduce the embodied carbon of the proposals. With the exception of the extension and new en-suite cabinet, there are almost no new walls. We worked almost entirely with the existing layout, but reorganised the spaces, refurbished almost everything, and added new joinery. The interior design could largely be described simply as a series of joinery interventions.
The transition from the existing house into the extension was also a challenge. The extension height was limited to 2.7m externally to avoid overshadowing the neighbour, which posed a potentially very jarring 1.3m step down in ceiling level between the existing house and the extension. The addition of a large inclined rooflight resolved this challenge, separating the two ceiling planes while also allowing us to retain the original 3.3m-high leaded fanlights between the two.
All the joinery – the wardrobes, kitchen, vanity units, cupboards and the en-suite ‘cabinet’ – matches in its design to provide a visual consistency to the whole apartment and formulate a cohesive set of interventions. The elements deliberately lack ornament or ironmongery so as to complement, rather than compete with, the many beautiful ornate period features of the property. All woodwork, new or old, is painted an identical satin white to provide a degree of unity. Historic features are hand painted while new additions are sprayed, giving the subtlest of distinctions.