Islington-based Ian Hay architects have completely re-worked this Hackney terrace house, on the edge of Victoria Park, into an open and angled space full of natural light.
Over the past fifteen years Hackney, once dubbed the most undesirable place to live in England, has become more and more gentrified, now making it one of the most fashionable places to live in London and home to many the most creative residential projects.
‘The clients had recently purchased the house before we began the work,’ says Hay. ‘Previous ad hoc alterations had retained the kitchen in the original half-width enclosure to the rear, the remaining width of the site had been infilled with an opaque UPVC conservatory which was uninhabitable for most of the year. As a result, the living spaces had become isolated from the garden and parkland views.’
So, Hay’s brief from the client was to form the largest possible family living and entertaining space at ground floor level, to rationalise the upper levels for family use, and to provide additional living/storage space where possible.
An additional and high priority for all levels was to open up views of trees, specifically a favourite flowering cherry growing in the parkland to the rear.
The path to perfection did not run smoothly, with a number of knock-backs and changes to the original plan but with the brief (particularly the cherry tree) ever in mind, Hay and the client fought to achieve the aims to wonderful effect.
For example the initial planning application for a two-storey rear extension raised objections and was withdrawn, but the upper level extension had been critical for the view of the cherry tree. A revised proposal was developed to the maximum extent of Permitted Development limits, with the new sloping roofline following the maximum height above ground level as defined within the Planning Act. From the interior, the tree would be visible from a gallery floor level, set within the highest section of this roof. Below this, the whole of the rear area along with a section of the garden would be excavated by 1m to create the new new 70 sq m living room with ceiling heights of up to 4m. A Certificate of Lawfulness for the proposal at ground level and a separate Planning Application for the alterations at roof level were eventually approved.
Once the nuts and bolts of the plan were set and taking shape, with the help of structural engineers Elliott Wood Partnership, the physical layout of the rooms began. Hay has completed reconfigured the space, so that now the new kitchen is located at the original ground floor level, overlooking the living room.
The sequence of spaces is linked with a 24m-long enfilade (series of rooms with aligned open doorways) running between the bay window, down through through the glazed rear addition, then rising a up a curved flight of steps to a sunny exterior dining terrace at the rear of the garden. Plenty of oak panelling has been used for a natural, warm feel and this has been used to create the custom made shelving in the project too. The freestanding furniture was supplied by Coexistence.
The new glazing to the rear has been carefully orientated avoid direct sunshine in the summer months. On the upper levels, window openings to the rear were enlarged wherever possible, and further structural works allowed the insertion of bathrooms and a double height master bedroom suite overlooking the treetops within the main roofspace.
‘Natural daylighting has been the main generator of the form of the new extension,’ describes Hay of the overall look and feel of the area, ‘both for the enjoyment of the space, for energy saving across the area of this large floor plan and as the main decorative element to the planar surfaces of the new space.’
The orientation of the largest openings towards the North protects the interior from solar gain in the summer and the configuration of the solid roofs has been carefully arranged to provide both shading and privacy from overlooking properties.
Quartz tiles from Island Stone have been selected for use throughout the large living room and bathroom mainly for their quirky modular arrangement and their interesting fissures which pick up and reflect the changing light in the space throughout the day. The bathrooms also feature sanitary ware from C.P. Hart.
Residents of Hackney are used to industrial type buildings; large spaces with huge windows to serve the factory work, and this has undoubtedly rubbed off a little on this interior. Hay has produced a project that is not overly fussy – the materials feel sturdy, robust and functional, edges and shapes feel sharp and defined – yet it is softened by warm woods and the ever present feeling of natural light flooding through large glazed areas into a clever and interesting arrangement of rooms.
Photographs © Richard Glover 2014