We can’t resist tinkering with our homes. In the Eighties we knocked by way of rooms and reached into the rafters so as to add loft extensions. In the Nineteen Nineties aspect passages have been glassed over and dusty coal cellars grew to become utility rooms. Next got here behemoth basement excavations. Now it’s all concerning the rear. Terraced homes that seem conventional on the entrance burst into cavernous open-plan extensions on the again. The glass field, gleaming with marble surfaces and bi-folding doorways is each architect’s try to carry sunlit Californian modernity to cloudy British climes.
Eastern affect: the hammam-inspired lavatory. Photograph: French +Tye
Alan Martin Day and Russell Vandyk, retirees with avant-garde tastes, needed one thing completely different for the again of their north London semi. “We’ve by no means aspired to the ‘home stunning’ look,” says Day, “but it surely was beginning to look tatty.” Built within the Nineties for a “Mr Pooter-ish” clerk, the home sits in an end-of-terrace plot embraced by a river that when fed contemporary water to London. The Victorian format had hardly modified. The loftier entrance rooms spoke of genteel entertaining. Behind, steps descended to the piecemeal former servants’ quarters, nonetheless marked with the ghostly traces of the maid’s bell.
For 40 years, the pair says they “made do” with a DIY kitchen and toilet. The remainder of the home functioned as a bohemian visitor home for family and friends. “There wasn’t a Damascene second once we determined to vary issues. But as you become older you recognize havinga extra aesthetic dimension to your life,” says Day. “Luxury isn’t about cruises or costly sofas; it’s about magnificence – not impressing different individuals.”
The couple, who used to run a props-making enterprise, handed their architects a “beneficiant” temporary. “It was an alternative to be experimental,” says Ben Allen, whoseeponymous apply is gaining a fame for spirited, allusive structure.
“We’re shifting away from large open-plan areas. The acoustics are terrible. And consuming, residing and watching TV collectively can really feel overwhelming. Covid has made us realise all of us want areas to retreat to,” says Allen, who attributes his vibrant, post-minimalist method to engaged on initiatives such because the Serpentine Pavilion for Berlin-based Olafur Eliasson. “Keep it easy was not his workplace mantra,” says Allen. “If you stroll in a forest, the sunshine and environment is consistently altering. Our pure surroundings is infinitely advanced; so having a little bit of complexity in our interiors ought to be a given.”
Green cross code: the scallop-patterned structural column in the back of the home. Photograph: French +Tye
To carry “intrigue” to the brand new, two-storey extension, Allen and colleague Omar Ghazal turned to Sir John Soane. Not his grandly neoclassical Bank of England, however the Georgian architect’s eccentric, imaginative house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. “Soane prolonged his home with an superb sequence of pavilions, lit in several methods. They solid a hyperlink between outdated and new,” says Allen. “Glass bins work nicely in heat southern climates, however English skies might be oppressive. You want a way of heat and enclosure.” Instead of gazing up at rain-streaked glazing, a ribbed vault sits under the skylight diffusing the sunshine – like that arboreal cover – into the double-height kitchen. Arched openings draw your gaze from the kitchen to the eating room the place Allen designed the D-ended desk and chairs. An Alice in Wonderland-scaled door above the sink opens, like a classic serving hatch, on to the sitting room. “These connections have made the home really feel a lot extra sociable,” says Vandyk, pointing as much as the mezzanine flooring, hugged by the blue balustrade. A room was sacrificed so as to add the brand new house.
Concrete, not a timber body, was used to construct the extension. “We have been impressed by the color and honesty of Victorian structure,” says Allen. “The brickwork is adorned, but it surely’s additionally load-bearing. What you see is what you get.” At the again, a structural column inscribed with a scallop sample contrasts with the flat panels of the toilet. The wealthy greens, reds and salmon pinks have been achieved utilizing earth pigments. Everything – stairs, kitchen counters, benches – was constructed off-site. “We spent quite a lot of time exploring choices, however the primary body solely took three days to construct,” says Allen who has named the mission the “House Recast”.
‘We spent quite a lot of time exploring choices, however the primary body solely took three days to construct’: Alan Martin Day and Russell Vandyk. Photograph: FRENCH+TYE
The lavatory was one other experiment. The shell-shaped shadows of an ornamental display screen flit throughout clean inexperienced partitions beneath the domed skylight. The unique hammam-like really feel is a nod to Ghazal’s Jordanian roots blended with a reference to the Orientalist London house of Victorian painter Sir Frederic Leighton. Designed as a moist room, it has a specifically made brass bathe head and the sculpted basin appears to be like like a classical pedestal.
Vandyk and Day just lately realized that their house has been plucked from 200 different submissions to win the annual Don’t Move, Improve! award. Not that they’ve ever doubted the distinctiveness of their recalibrated inside. It has given them a contemporary perspective on the house they’ve identified since their 20s. “From each angle, you at all times have one thing completely different to take a look at – there’s an ongoing sense of novelty,” says Vandyk.