House Extension At London Fields
Ben and Alice at the time the project was conceived were living in an area known as London Fields in East London. The immediate area consisted of streets of consistent Georgian / Victorian terraced properties. Ken was a minister in a local church and Alice, a consultant in a hospital. As they were both busy people they had a nanny who daily looked after the children at key times of the day such as the school pick up and evening meals. Due to Bens role as a minister in a thriving multi-cultural church, there was always a large amount of entertaining going on at any one time particularly at weekends. Both Ben and Alice enjoyed cooking and the food was invariably top drawer. However there was also a log jam of people squeezing their way into the kitchen and back to the dining / living area at meal times and this was frustrating especially if conversations were in mid flow and it started to feel very congested. On top of this the children who were small but growing fast, needed more elbow room in the house and space to retreat into and to call their own.
The first challenge was how to create more usable social space on the ground floor with better circulation space around the kitchen area. There was a tradition of providing a buffet type service where guests and family members would, usually on a Sunday, collect their food from the kitchen then go and find a place to sit and eat it. This was because it was never fully know how many people would turn up for the Sunday meal which defied attempts at formal layouts around a dining table.
The second challenge was how to do all this within a fixed budget.
To take the first challenge, the obvious solution was to create an opening in the side external wall of the kitchen and extending sideways to meet the boundary line of the neighbours property. By keeping the kitchen more or less in the same position, a central kitchen island for serving the food was created around which people could pick up their preferred choice of food and head back to where they would like to eat it, either in the newly extended kitchen space, to talk to the chef, back to the dining room in the main house to eat on the dining table or right though to the front room through connecting double doors to enjoy one of the lounge chairs or sofa.
The building project would also include a loft conversion to create a separate bedroom for Ben and Alice’s quickly growing son and an additional shower room.
Our initial response at ground floor level was to create a fully glazed roof over the side kitchen extension and to project this space out into the rear garden area. This would be coupled with the creation for a new access from the existing formal dining room in the main house, directly into the newly extended rear open plan kitchen. This latter move reduced the congestion that formerly occurred getting in and out of the kitchen with a plate of food. To keep the budget under control, rather than forming a full width opening here, the cill of the existing large traditional window opening was taken down to the floor level and french doors were inserted. This kept the traditional character of the original dining room intact with its all round cornices and skirting, the splayed brick arch remained in place and the wall space internally remained to hang the growing art collection of Ben and Alice. Applying our expertise and knowledge of working within conservations areas we obtained the necessary planning permission, negotiated a party / boundary wall agreement and obtained tenders from a selection of building contractors.
The competitive tenders came in around 10% higher than the client felt comfortable with, so together with the selected tenderer, we used our extensive knowledge by that time, of the proposed detailed construction and specification to make minor alterations which brought the budget back to where the client was happy to proceed. This included changing the fully glazed roof specification to a solid insulated roof with openable roof lights inserted and pulling back the part of the extension proposed to project into the rear garden to keep it strictly to a side extension. This reduced the budget sufficiently to then create an overhanging roof externally, garden facing, and to take the internal finishes along the party wall out into the garden. In conjunction with a glazed external wall and doors from the side extension to the garden a strong relationship between indoor and outdoor was established to the delight of the client. To complete the composition, a stainless steel rainwater hopper and down-pipe was featured, turning a necessity into a design opportunity.
As for the roof extension, the bedroom featured a dormer window with a flat roof made from structural glass with a superb view towards the Victorian School’s redbrick dutch gable. Ben and Alices’s son, young as he was at the time, chose the colours for his bedroom, which against all designer sensibilities was a clash of bright yellow and blue. Only later did his parents find out that this devious choice was base on the Arsenal ‘away’ kit colours.