A Victorian House of Music on Highbury Hill

by Becky Hoh in Interior designed homes

This five bedroom house in Highbury, is a good example of how an architect provides the means for a client to achieve their clear idea for its outcome, rather than injecting an over powering stamp on the project.

‘The clients, both musicians, wanted to create a bright and open living space for their young family,’ describes architect Ben Adams. ‘The entire existing house had to be gutted and substantial structural works undertaken.’

In addition to converting this divided up shell into an open single family home, two other large requirements topped the bill of the brief –  to bring as much natural light into the scheme as possible and also add an extension to the lower ground floor, to house an acoustically sealed recording studio.

‘One of the issues faced was to obtain planning permission to convert the house back into a single family dwelling,’ Adams explains of the first step. ‘Discussions with the planners, however, led us to understand that converting the house back into a single family unit would be looked on favourably.  There were two reasons for this – the first being there is a shortage of family units in the borough and the second because it would restore the house back to its original state.’

‘As with any refurbishment project, the existing building threw up many unknowns. This, coupled with the high level of sound proofing and structural works, made for an interesting and challenging construction project.’

Although the planning stage went relatively smoothly, the conversion itself remained a mammoth task. The original house is of brick construction, with a timber framed, slate covered roof and the floors are timber joists with timber floor boards and windows are timber sash. To open up the house as much as possible, steelwork had to be introduced throughout to create open plan living spaces in the kitchen, living room and the master bedroom.

‘As with any refurbishment project, the existing building threw up many unknowns,‘ says Adams.  ‘This, coupled with the high level of sound proofing and structural works, made for an interesting and challenging construction project.’

The recording studio required meticulous detailing to prevent any sound transfers. High levels of acoustic insulation and separation were also introduced between floors. The end result of this intensive ground work is both subtle, warm and seemingly unassuming while being simultaneously (albeit quietly) impressive, with exciting stand out moments.

As well as the recording studio, the lower ground level extension houses a guest bedroom, kitchenette, utility room and boiler room. The roof of the extension is a large terrace that overlooks the garden.

The ground level, which is raised off the ground and accessed via a series of steps from the front entrance, was completely opened up to create a continuous living, dining and kitchen space that flowed into each other. Here, a rich, dark, parquet floor was installed and stone fireplace. Large, full height glazed doors were added onto the rear elevation, which leads onto the extension roof terrace. These, coupled with the windows on the front elevation, allow in generous amounts of natural light throughout the day, due to the room’s dual aspect.

The kitchen has a rustic-modern feel with timber and bespoke concrete worktops by Paul Davies, custom storage cupboards and plenty of the clients’ own pieces, such as quirky art work, Kilm rugs and warm 1960s wood and wicker furniture.

Lighting design was very important to the client, so Adams used turn of the century, factory style fittings above the island and dining table and a bespoke, hanging light arrangement was created above the main stair.

Moving up the stairs to the first floor, you are met with the children’s bedrooms, a guest bedroom, and two bathrooms. Floor lamps, switched to the house’s main wiring, were used in the here to create a soft glow.

The master bedroom and bath is on the second floor. This floor was also completely opened up, with the bath and dressing area leading off the sleeping space. ‘The height of the bedroom was drastically increased, with the bedroom ceiling now going up past the eaves and exposing the roof’s pitch, with a feature being made of some beams by painting them black,’ Adams explains.  ‘A video screen and projector were installed, allowing the whole family to enjoy a home cinema experience in the dramatic space.’

The same timber and concrete worktop combination used in the kitchen has been implemented in the master bathroom, as well as concrete tiles from Belgium artisans Emery & Cie to line the showers.

The outside space has the same attention to detail and slick but laid back styling, with the levels being adjusted to accommodate the extension. A new low level terrace sits in front of the extension, with stairs running up the side for access to the roof terrace. A large span of grass and planting beds fill the garden’s middle section.

Sturdy, reassuring materials, give this family home the robust and welcoming feel it carries off so well, but also gives a great affirming finish to the huge overhaul the property went through, to reach this handsome state. Ben Adams Architects has given this house of big sounds a big feel to match. They’ve kept the canvas pared back enough to let the creativity that takes place within, bounce around freely and most prominently.


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