Text description provided by the architects. Introduction
The project is a remodelling and extension to a house in a conservation area for a young family. The Brackenbury House forms part of a terrace of five Lillian Villas built in 1879. The “L” shaped double-fronted villas are brick and stucco faced, two-storey high, with front gardens forming a landscaped frontage, set back from the street.
Dutch born, Niels Swinkels works for Universal Pictures and is passionate about the aesthetic of sci-fi films. Erica Swinkels [Swedish / British], asked for a palette of natural earthy materials and was keen for us to retain as much of the existing fabric of the building and re-cycle it as we reconfigured the house to make it work better for them as a family.
The ambitions for the project were high in terms of achieving open plan, visually connected spaces to allow for a greater sense of communication between the different rooms. The client wanted to make the house feel connected to the outside through framed views to the garden and to allow as much natural light in as possible.
Materials and Spatial Strategy
Our design adds a new basement and rear extension, providing an expanded living and kitchen space, sky lit sun-filled bathrooms, a home cinema, playroom and guest bedroom. We sought to create an innovative design solution – rethinking the basement typology in a contemporary way to ensure it was both a light-filled but could also be used in a multi-functional way – as a playroom for their young son or a sophisticated cinema viewing room.
The conceptual approach was to create a calm atmospheric interior using carefully selected unified palette of materials stitching the modern design into its historic context within the conservation area. Materials work well together due to the inherent relationships between re-used historic materials juxtaposed with modern industrial elements.
The new basement area is lit by large skylights cut into the floors above. All levels are opened out to allow the existing rooms of the Victorian house to give way to an open plan interior on the ground floor and tall loft like spaces upstairs. The kitchen and living rooms open out to a south-west facing patio, creating a strong connection between house and garden.
All the ceilings in the upper floors were removed, allowing the tall loft-like ceiling spaces to be exposed with large skylights flooding the home with natural light. The bathrooms are top lit by generous skylights linking bathing spaces to the sky above.
Although one does not often associate home refurbishments with sustainable design; our practice worked hard to embed sustainable principles and products into the design at the early stages in the project.
We re-used as much of the existing fabric of the house as possible - the existing bricks of the house were carefully stored during the demolition stage for re-use to construct the new extension. The recycled Hammersmith stock bricks from the existing house are used to create the new extension linking the memory of the old house to the new design. A feature brick wall in the living area extends down to the basement through the skylight visually connecting the two levels. The new rear façade is constructed out of recycled brick and is tied to the existing flank wall with a sensuous curved brick detail. The use of lime mortar ensures future re-use of the brick is still possible.
The upgraded insulation and heating systems to the property allowed us to include larger areas of glass to the rear facade. We placed the glazing elements, glass doors and skylights on the south / east to maximise the potential solar gain and reduce the amount of mechanical heating needed during the day as well as cutting down on the need for artificial lighting.
All the external walls are heavily insulated with robust airtightness details to minimise heat loss throughout the fabric of the building. All glazing was upgraded to high quality thermally broken double glazed argon gas filled units.
A walk-on glass floor allows one to see from the ground floor to the basement playroom as well as allowing light to enter the basement through the tall foldaway glass doors. The glass doors fold away completely linking the kitchen, courtyard and living room. Views to the sky are created at the landings to all the staircases. The bathrooms are top lit by generous skylights allowing one to bath under the stars. The large glazed units meant that a house that was previously dark and pokey was now a light filled space.
We embedded underfloor heating pipes within the polished concrete floor due to its good thermal mass and heat retention qualities. We also used an air exchange system in the basement that allows for a constant feed of fresh air from the outside and recycled all the heated air back into the house before it is exhausted outside.