This project, our most ambitious and complex to date, has involved the complete remodelling and extension of a five-storey Victorian townhouse in Chelsea, including the excavation of an additional basement level beneath the footprint of the house, vaults and most of the rear garden.
The property had been extensively 'chopped and changed' over the years, including various 1970s accretions. The opportunity therefore existed, planning permitting, for a complete internal rebuild. This was grasped to the full, and only the front facade and roof now remain of the original.
It was realised from the outset that since the houses on this side of Glebe Place are, at only five metres wide, rather long and narrow, the new staircase should be relocated to the middle, thus allowing for full-width rooms to front and rear.
It was also realised that the principal living floors (ground, lower ground and basement) should be opened-up, seamlessly flow-together, properly connect with the rear garden, and enjoy as much daylight and a feeling of space as possible.
Vistas have been opened-up from front to rear, and a sculptural concrete staircase, matching the concrete floors, helps tie the areas together. This gradually wends its way down from the ground floor entrance hall, which doubles-up as a study.
The desk has been carefully located so as to enjoy the view of Glebe Place to one side, and to the back of the rear garden via the half-landing and living room window beyond. One can also see down into the kitchen through a glass floor panel in the bay.
An opening opposite the front door leads down from the entrance hall/study to a half-landing which overlooks the dramatic double-height living room. Discreet built-in storage and a fire safety curtain have been incorporated into the reveals.
The double-height living room features aligning twin tall openings on opposite sides. On one side, these openings house structural glass electric 'guillotine' windows by Vitrocsa, which provide views of and easy access to the rear garden.
On the other side, the openings house the stair and half-landings. A backlit sculpture, by the Georgian artist Tamara Kvesitadze, formed of moving silhouettes of the owners and their family, is located within the central pier.
A couple of steps lead down from the living room to the kitchen, which is located at the front of the house beneath the entrance hall/study. Mirrored cabinets on one side provide discreet storage whilst increasing the illusion of space.
A canary yellow glass 'canopy' ceiling which continues down to counter level as a backsplash, acts as a bright yet intimate foil to the adjacent double-height living room. It also houses services including the extractor and perimeter lighting.
The hobs are located on one side of the island unit, which provides counter seating for six. Full-height cabinets and appliances, including a walk-in larder, are discreetly located to one side.
A seating area is located in the bay window overlooking the front light well. Above this area, a glass ceiling panel affords a few of the entrance hall/study. Extensive storage and a television set are located behind the adjacent mirrored panels.
We worked closely with Mowlem & Co on the kitchen design, which has been carefully integrated into the overall architecture, aided by using a similar palette. As a result, this rather small room feels brighter and larger than it actually is.
The dining room is located at the foot of the main staircase at basement level. It features a coffered ceiling, a large built-in aquarium, and a recessed area of black lacquered panelling.
A corridor leads from one side of the aquarium to various ancillary areas, including the utility room which can also function as a secondary kitchen.
A recessed area of black lacquered panelling, on axis with the aquarium opposite, is located on one side of the dining room. This incorporates glazed doorways to the twin wine cellars, sliding mirrored doors to the family room, and a skylight.
The family room has been excavated beneath the rear garden and features a backlit artwork by Tamara Kvesitadze with 'sun tunnels' set into the ceiling to either side. At the moment, this area serves as a children's playroom and cinema room.
An unusual and dramatic feature is a WC with a window looking into the aquarium; large rocks have been strategically placed inside for privacy. A scarlet basin, polished black plaster walls and a coffered silver leaf ceiling heighten the drama.
The twin wine cellars, located betwixt the dining and family rooms, also provide additional interest and drama. The glazed, insulated doors, have been carefully positioned to align with the skylight.
A corridor leads from the dining room via the WC, utility room and maid's quarters to a secondary staircase up to the front light well and kitchen. It also serves as a picture gallery, with ample lighting provided by the recessed ceiling slot and the low-level wall lights.
A bright red composite counter enlivens what would otherwise be a rather clinical utility room. Discreet white panels conceal a plethora of 'stuff' including various laundry and kitchen appliances, the boilers, and the extensive hardware for the Lutron lighting and audio-visual installations.
The master suite occupies the whole of the first floor, apart form the stairwell. The bathroom is located at the front and the bedroom at the rear, connected via a dressing area centred on one of the front windows. Dinesen douglas fir floor-
boards run in one section from wall to wall.
The highly polished lacquering has resulted in unforseen reflective views into the bathroom, bedroom and beyond. This has inadvertently heightened the illusion of space and drama.
A cluster of vintage lucite light tubes hangs in the centre of the master bedroom; additional artworks by Tamara Kvesitadze are located nearby.
The master bathroom features twin Artilenea wall-mounted vanity basins and taps, with bespoke 'floating' medicine cabinets above. The wall surface behind is finished in polished plaster.
The panel glimpsed in the mirror separates the shower and WC areas from the bathroom proper. It is finished in grey polished plaster, matching the wall behind, and includes a section of petrified moss. A freestanding 'tadelakt' bath sits in front.
This is one of the en-suite bathrooms at second floor level. The sculptural freestanding bath is by V+A and the flooring and bespoke cabinet are douglas fir.
A laminated douglas fir staircase, matching the floorboards, runs from the entrance hall/study half landing, past the first floor master suite and two second floor bedroom suites, to the top of the house.
This area is currently configured as a single space, although it can be subdivided by a sliding panel when required.
One side of the staircase is supported by a structural glass wall. This helps keep the space as bright and open as possible.
The staircase finally terminates at roof level, which is accessed via a sliding skylight. The dark grey polished plaster wall behind runs right down the stairwell to the first floor landing.
And finally, this night-time view, taken from the rear garden, shows the double-height Vitrocsa 'guillotine' windows and the living room beyond.
The lighting design, by Tim Fonfara of Luxologie, as throughout the project, accentuates the architecture of the spaces and the connection between the interior and exterior.
This is an initial sketch of the concrete staircase viewed from the entrance hall.
This is an initial sketch of the staircase viewed from the entrance hall upper half-landing, showing the change in finish from concrete to timber.
This is an initial sketch of the staircase viewed from the entrance hall lower half-landing and living room level.
This is an initial sketch of the foot of the concrete staircase at living room level.