Sybarite have worked on numerous private houses and our approach to refurbishment is always about getting the balance right. Rather than pursuing a tactic of ‘rip out and start over’ and imposing a particular style on a house, we are sensitive to its unique characteristics and aim to create a strong juxtaposition between the old and new.
This complete refurbishment of a four floor / four bedroom Victorian townhouse in West London's Brackenbury Village required the same sensitivity. The brief was to completely gut this wreck of a house and create a very liveable and practical home for this busy family with three young children. Although great design was on the wish list, the house mainly had to become a comfortable family home maximising the usable space and storage. Because of conservation area restrictions, the exterior and garden treatments were limited mainly to restoration and had to remain in keeping with the area. The interior intervention juxtaposes old and new, respecting the Victorian heritage while applying a contemporary intervention which works seamlessly without jarring. The original staircase runs like spine through house, its minimal restoration allowing you to read its age so that it becomes the focal point against which a simple, elegant refurbishment is contrasted. Tying together the modern aspects of the house is the use of concrete, which is utilised in various places, polished as flooring and shuttered to clad several fireplaces throughout the house.
The house was literally falling to bits and had undergone almost no modernisation from the time it was built, apart from crude, surface-mounted electrics dating from between the wars. As is typical for houses of the era, it was divided into many tiny rooms and so the primary intervention was to open up the spaces, for which 22 new support steels were added.
Overall, the approach was to avoid overdesign and as always, the simpler the design the more important the detailing so the project became an exercise in attention to detail. On the raised ground floor, comprising sitting room, library and office, elements such as recessed skirting, customised lighting and bespoke doors exemplify this philosophy. Dividing sitting room and library, custom-designed black stainless steel sliding doors provide a space-saving way to close off one room from another but their reflectivity reduces their visual impact, keeping the space lighter and more open feeling. The lighting in the sitting room is provided by a bespoke double-skinned fibreglass globe whose circular perforations of varying diameter cast light onto outer shell. The result is a warm glow which gives the room a atmosphere distinct from the adjacent library where lighting is more directional. Throughout this level, teak flooring was chosen for its warm colour which matures beautifully and complements the original staircase.
The lower ground floor is the hub of family activity and incorporates open plan kitchen, dining room and play room. Facing the front, the kitchen is large and practical, the cabinets made of bright yellow liquid laminate. The opposite end of the space opens out through glazed accordion doors into the garden which becomes an extra room. Walled on three sides, the garden mirrors the layout of the kitchen cabinets opposite, and together these act like bookends, giving definition to the space. The centre of the room is dominated by a large 'shuttlecock' dining table balancing on its point, defying gravity. The entire floor on this level is polished concrete, creating a clean, minimalist backdrop. Concealed beneath the kitchen and accessed by a round hatch set flush into the floor is a sizable wine cellar.
An important element of the brief for this area was to maximise storage so that the whole family could easily share this space without it becoming too cluttered. Deep, floor to ceiling lacquered cupboards run along one whole wall, providing ample space to pack away toys and games so the room can be easily transformed from child's playroom to relaxed entertaining area for grownups.
The existing garden was cluttered and dysfunctional with an annex tacked on to an extension and a space-wasting side return. Replacing all of these is one rectangular extension which provides much more usable space without increasing the overall footprint, an important point for the planners. Enclosed by rendered walls and accessed by fully opening glazed doors, the garden becomes another room for playing or entertaining. The white render provides a simple backdrop for plants and at night is up lit, reflecting a glow into the house.
On the first floor, the former master bedroom becomes a double bedroom shared by two of the family's children, as requested by the client. This floor also contains the family bathroom and a guest room clad entirely with birch plywood. With no other detailing, the simplicity and warmth of this finish creates a feeling very different from all the other rooms in the house. A concealed flop-down bed enables the room to convert easily between guest room and extra play space for the kids. The second floor in the newly extended loft meets the challenge of getting the most from a small space, incorporating ensuite shower room and sufficient storage to create a generous and comfortable master bedroom. The strategy was to borrow a trick from yacht design and slot the bed into the sloping wall of the roof. Accommodating a king sized bed with plenty of room to sit up and read, this otherwise unusable space becomes a cosy hideaway and, importantly, frees up all the remaining floor area in the room. The rear elevation is fully glazed, allowing plenty of natural light. Walk-in wardrobe and ensuite shower room flank the bed, utilising every available inch of space. For this to be successful, materials had to be carefully selected and all finishes had to be of the highest quality. Concealing additional storage cupboards, wall panels in sleek Italian lacquer are set out in geometric composition, like a Mondrion painting. A shuttered concrete fireplace interrupts this stretch of panelling, the rough finish contrasting the high gloss and extending the language of the floors below. The staggered staircase leading up to the new loft is quirky and modern, completely different from the refurbished one below.