Work has recently been completed on Grey Griffiths Architects Step House Project for a family of four. Careful negotiation with Local Planning Officers led to consent for a 2-storey extension to the rear of an end-of terrace house in Wimbledon.
A transformative stepped extension provides a new kitchen and bedroom for a young family. A bespoke staircase allows daylight into the heart of the home, linking the old and new. The extension carefully responds to the neighbouring houses to avoid impacting on the natural light they receive. The conservation area setting is preserved by sensitive use of materials and the form of the new extension.
We were approached by our Clients - a young family - just before they purchased this two bedroom workers’ cottage in the John Innes (Merton Park) Conservation area in Wimbledon. With a young daughter and another on the way they saw this house as a stepping stone to a larger property in the area. They were looking to create more living space in a single storey extension to the rear, similarly to the other properties in the terrace. After undertaking some initial sketch options, we identified that by virtue of its position at the end of terrace, there was a possibility of building a larger extension that would provide a third bedroom and give the house greater longevity for the growing family. By sinking the lower storey to create a stepped section, and carefully shaping the external envelope of the new bedroom, a two storey extension was possible.
Consideration of impact on neighbours, particularly with regard to avoiding overshadowing, was key to the proposal's success. Through negotiation with the planning and conservation officers we were able to demonstrate the lack of impact of the proposal and the appropriateness of the design. The brief for an extension that provided natural daylight into what was a dark cottage was met by introducing carefully placed rooflights and a glazed link between old and new elements. The bespoke feature stair allows light to permeate into the heart of the house and ties spaces together, resolving the issue of an otherwise subdivided plan.
The extension is comprised of a series of brick volumes that are subtly articulated to reflect the new rooms. A two-storey ‘pop-out’ reflects the former location of a brick pier and provides storage space at the upper floor and integrated seating at the lower floor, which has a vital impact on the width and usability of the kitchen and dining area. A glazed ribbon visually and conceptually separates the new elements from the old and brings light into the centre of the plan and the relocated bathroom.
The clients were keen to ensure that natural light would permeate into the entrance hall and was not obscured by the new stair. An open tread stair would have achieved this but with young children there were concerns over the safety of open treads. The clients’ budget had already been stretched by increasing from a single storey to a two-storey extension, and whilst they were keen to explore a feature stair, it had to make economic sense. The solution was a bespoke stair with perforated risers that let light through without raising safety issues. The stair was composed of standardised ‘z’ shape components of birch ply, joined by metal rods which fix to the wall. Working closely with specialists Cake Industries, the engineering of the stair was optimised to create a stair that forms the focal point of the house and brings a subtle dappled light into the centre of the home.
“When we first purchased the property, we thought that the best we could hope for would be to add a single-storey rear extension that would give us slightly more living space and that would allow us to live there for a few years until our children outgrew sharing a bedroom. We never imagined that Grey Griffiths would be able to come up with a design that would give us an additional bedroom and be able to get planning permission for it in a Conservation Area. The unique ideas that they had for the new staircase and the glazed link have brought so much light into the middle of the house, and the change to the layout and the additional space that they’ve given us means that we can now stay in an area that we love, in a house that we love and that works for our family both now and in the future”.