Without Breaking A Few Eggs

Without Breaking A Few Eggs

The client’s brief was to open up the basement rooms to the rest of the house. This meant we needed to remove a large area of the ground floor at the back of the house, along with the two primary 500mm thick rubble stone spine walls to either side of the stairs. 

On top of this, a new glazed extension was to be added to the back of the house, improving the link with the garden and forming a new 7 metre wide clear opening in the rear wall.

In short: we needed to make a bit of a (carefully considered) mess. 

Time was spent with both the structural engineer and steelwork fabricator to develop a structural design that would allow us to remove the required amount of the existing building, while achieving the desired open space and hiding the new steelwork.  

The resulting structural solution, although significant in size, was actually fairly simple. Three letterbox frames concealed within the walls and floors, with two 6.5 metre high circular columns breaking the span of the two principle frames and supporting the edge of the landing.

The more complex issue was the temporary propping required to hold the building up during the demolition and steelwork installation. We needed to make sure that once the propping was in place, we could get the steel beams and columns in through the strangely beautiful forest of props. This involved some of the steelwork having to be fabricated and laid in position before the propping was erected.

One of the most unusual aspects of the final solution were the ‘flat jacks’ above the new opening in the back wall. These are, in effect, whoopy cushions made from steel. They were installed between the top of the steel and the existing wall, inflated with high pressure air and then filled with a non-shrinking grout. This process forces any deflection out of the steel, avoiding any cracking when the props are removed.

There is no doubt that it was a challenging project. But the detailed design and planning meant that the process on site was generally very smooth. And the fact that in the finished house the large steel letterbox frames are entirely hidden, is extremely satisfying.

A Recipe for Living

The kitchen has always been the heart of a home, just as it was the heart of Jonathan and Emma’s brief. A space to cook, entertain and come together. Somewhere to chat as flour spills over the counter. 

The delight is in the detail. German made carcasses combined with bespoke white Corian doors and work surfaces by Moon Joinery. The back units are fitted under the ground floor landing. This provides a sense of scale and a more intimate enclosure beneath the new double height space.

Emma and Jonathan wanted the hob on the island to make cooking a more sociable occupation. With no ceiling above, we used a downdraft extractor. A variety of matte whites provide a timeless finish. The splashback is hand painted wallpaper – an injection of colour that can be changed as tastes evolve.

From this core, we worked outwards. Doors integrated into the tall back units lead to the rooms behind. At one end: a pantry, cellar and utility room. At the other: a multi-use family room. A space where the kids do their homework, play computer games and watch films. Not always in that order. 

A new cantilevered staircase leads down from the ground floor, replacing the old steep and poky servants’ stairs. While a large dining space leads out to the terrace, through a new extension with a large slim-framed glazed sliding wall.

Jonathan and Emma’s love of books is put on display thanks to a double height bookcase. Following much discussion as to the correct strategy for organising the collection, a simple alphabetical approach was adopted.

Down one of the corridors is a panelled door from their old house in London, used to record the heights of the children as they grew. A little bit of family history integrated into the new house. 

The story continues. 

Concealed Beauty

Hansgrohe iBox

Innocuous in appearance, yet beautifully considered, the Hansgrohe iBox is a testament to form following function.

Invented by Alois Schönweger, the universal shower installation unit is built directly into the bathroom wall. The concealed nature of the device allows plumbers to connect or replace any type of shower fixture without the need for major construction work.

Designed for use with all common installation systems, connection types and fittings, the rotationally symmetric box has now been used in over seven million new builds and refurbishments since its launch in 2001. 

The perfect example of beautiful functionality.