Schizophrenic Gesamtkunstwerk

This project is many things, but boring is certainly not one of them. As the name suggests, it certainly has a split personality but also contains an avalanche of details. There is the original Edwardian part which sits in stark contrast with the contemporary volume at the back. This approach manages to address the different desires of the two clients: There are the historical, slightly romantic rooms in the old house counterbalanced by the contemporary, minimal but warm box at the back.

The original building sits in the Aldersbrook Conservation Area in Wanstead, East London and was in a dilapidated state. The basement was under water, a room burned out, there was no bathroom to speak of and the existing rear extension was dysfunctional. The project had to be phased in order to address all of these aspects.

New floor and ceiling build-ups address the lack of acoustic and thermal performance whilst providing an opportunity to integrate subtle lighting and an integral sound system. Historically correct ornamental plasterwork has been reinstated and given a twist by painting the entire rooms in the same, sometimes bold colour. The front entrance has been moved and the internal layout reorganized. This in turn has drastically reduced the circulation area and instead created a store and two new bathrooms. The bathrooms are finished in stone, oak mosaics and handmade acrylic stone basins. One of the bathrooms sits elevated above the now tanked basement in order to create sufficient head-height for an underground sauna. The raised bathroom platform enables the introduction of a fire pit in the master bedroom. The ensuite bathroom is accessed via a discrete, aged mirror sliding door which is seemingly blending into the ornamental plasterwork of the wall. The bedroom itself also features a freestanding bath and a bespoke mural of King Edward VII during whose reign the house was built. A matching bed, dating from the same era, was found and sits in front of a bespoke, reflective white wardrobe wall.

A renewed study doubles as a guest bedroom and a library where one can retreat from the rest of the family. The space is split into two halves: a ‘cave’ clad in soothing warm bark, walls of books, finished with a leather floor and the new, seemingly frameless, fully glazed side looking out onto a stone garden.

The existing extension has gone through similarly drastic changes: internal and external walls have been removed creating a large open floor plate with generous triple glazed openings. Four large skylights add extra daylight and head height to the space whilst the roof has been thermally upgraded. The remaining external walls have been wrapped in thermal insulation and are finished in a polished, cementitious render system. The finish is softened by colour matched planters with hardy Mexican grasses flourishing along the primary roof edge and a black stone-pebble pier which seemingly continues internally but also reappears in the shower areas.

The light flooded interior is finished with a grey stained wooden floor, a gloss black kitchen ‘slab’ and a rustic air-dried oak kitchen island. The latter is not only a homage to the Austrian mountain heritage of one of the clients but also ‘softens’ the space. The same oak reappears externally on the black flamed granite terraces in the shape of an external dining table and an external sofa. The kitchen itself is designed for experimental cooking: It contains a teppanyaki grill, an integral steamer and deep fryer, a warming drawer and hot tap. Glazed wall cabinets double as a framework for bespoke artwork.

All skylights contain a concealed LED strip light within the reveals which create ‘domes’ of light right above the four individual areas below: One for the cooking zone, one for the dining table, one for the bespoke velvet sofa looking towards the TV and a sophisticated sound system, and one on the opposite side of this double-sided sofa looking at a bespoke wall hung aquarium.

Clients: Confidential

Budget: Confidential

Structural Engineers: Fluid Structures

Status: Completed 2017

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