Moving Up

by Becky Hoh in Interior designed homes

Nuns With Guns Designs creates a slick South Kensington space with a striking staircase at its heart.

The rather ballsy named Nuns With Guns Design created this plush 2390 sq ft, four bedroom space in Gledhow gardens, South Kensington for a property investment client.

So the overall aim was to make this an impressive high spec home which would fit this extremely affluent, prestigious post code area of London and lead to a lucrative sales price. The client bought the property as two apartments, a one bedroom and a two bedroom, with the plan of combining the space, in order to create a luxury, spacious four bedroomed home, to include dressing rooms and en suite bathrooms and a wow-factor entrance hall and staircase, with a sense of scale, volume and light being high on the list of design desires

So architecturally and structurally, there was much work to be done to form the space itself, with the biggest challenge being to create the void to house the staircase that connected the two floors, along with the actual staircase.

‘The company had to form the handrail accurately to the design drawings, including a router to accommodate the light cable.’

The trickiest factor was that the existing window positions in the facade could not be moved, so the most ideal staircase layout would cut across the windows.

‘If we had used a traditional stringer as it passed in front of the window it would have created some awkward detailing,’ describes Huw Williams, Nuns With Guns founder, ‘and it would have also given the game away and made it look like two flats had been knocked together and a staircase retro-fitted into the space. To make the apartment appear as if it had always been a single dwelling it was important to avoid this collision.’

As such the team decided to change the staircase construction half way up. Using a self supporting folded steel staircase section for the top half in front of the window, allowed them to avoid the need for a stringer and also to float the staircase out from the wall, when it got to the location of the window.

‘It also made for an interesting “journey” between the floors,’ describes Huw of the added aesthetical plus point, ‘moving from the upper steel section to a bottom section, which we created from a solid ground bearing timber element, which morphed into a study area beneath the stair.’

The staircase itself has been set against hundreds of dark charcoal grey, synthetic leather panels and also presented a challenge because of two things. Firstly, in an act of creating symmetry the panels widths had to match the depth of the welded steel treads of the staircase, which also had to match the even spacing of the steel cables that formed the floor to ceiling balustrades – many times a number of the separate components had to be redone!

And secondly, due to specific lead time issues, the internally lit handrail had to be manufactured completely bespoke by a company specialising in industrial plastic tubes, rather than the translucent acrylic product the team were going to order from Hong Kong.

‘The company had to form the handrail accurately to the design drawings, including a router to accommodate the light cable,’ explains Williams. ‘I personally assisted the contractor to install the rail due to the complexity of the two turns in the stair and the change of direction in the half landings.’

Despite the difficulty it presented, the staircase has actually become the part which Willams likes the most.

‘To manufacture all the various components separately and with different suppliers direct from the drawings, with so many tight tolerances was difficult, but it’s the element I am most pleased with,’ he says. ‘Since I’m an architect, not an interior designer, the stair was architectural in nature, in the sense that whilst it was meant to look simple as a final design, it took a lot of hard work, concentration and coordination to achieve.’

Once these structural elements had been dealt with more detailed interior design began. Black, dark grey and white was chosen for the overall palette, as per the staircase wall panels, an area which was also treated to brass Tom Dixon pendant lights.  The simple but striking feel has been given a mediating tone of timber and plenty of different textures, to add comfort and visual interest.

The flooring is limed white ash in 240mm wide engineered timber boards and limestone bespoke slabs in the corridor and staircase area.

Many parts of the project are bespoke, including all the joinery which were tailor-made to the set space. In fact the dual aspect door in the master ensuite is an invention by Williams, which can sit in two positions, one to close off the bathroom or to close off the toilet area, whilst leaving the bathroom area open to the bedroom. This area also has a custom made Corian clad element that forms both the shower bench and the vanity unit within the master bathroom.

Bespoke storage units behind the beds are in oak veneer and sprayed lacquer anthracite units, as is the TV unit in the living space.

The seemingly simple, structured look of this project, combined with quality, sophisticated materials gives this home a very handsome, sturdy feel with a developed sense of style. One that is made all the more handsome when you know the story behind it is anything but simple and is one that truly put an architect to the test!

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