Originally constructed at the turn of the last century, the 2800-square-foot London flat had been vacant for some time, with the last owner having lived there for almost 40 years. Located in a beautiful brick mansion block, the flat was in need of extensive work including electrical and plumbing. The extensive refurbishment included substantial structural modifications altering the flat’s layout to include new services.
As collectors of art and antiques (predominantly mid 20th century), the owners were focused, at each design stage, on how and where items would be housed and walled. Rather than blowing out all the walls to make an open-plan space, the demolition was carefully considered to preserve walls for hanging art and placement of furnishings.
The owners, a couple with two teenagers, were downsizing from a large house. They wanted to transform the existing four-bedroom flat into a three-bedroom of the highest quality. The transformation would include structural alterations to the layout and new services for new bathrooms. Because the flat had not been modernized in over 40 years, it offered significant opportunities for a total transformation. The original layout was of a totally different era; many small and compartmentalized rooms were removed to make room for a more open concept. We would need to remove walls and sections of walls strategically in order to open up the flat. However, being on the second floor of a six-story mansion meant this was not straightforward.
The strategic demolition of a section of the wall between the living room and hall extends the hallway into the living space, blurring the boundaries between the two and bringing natural daylight from the south-facing living space deep into the long hallway. This helped to position the hallway as an extension of the living space and a sort of gallery space for the display of artwork.
From the outset, we saw an opportunity in the large hallway. On the one hand, it was grand in scale. On the other, however, it had become a ‘room’ in its own right, windowless and dark, a long corridor of mono-functional circulation space. We knew it could be so much more.
We started by exploring two radically different potential layouts. Both options had one principle in common, the large hallway which was treated as an additional ‘room’ that opened up and flowed into the living spaces. In so doing the hallway benefited from ‘borrowed’ natural light and views through adjacent rooms and out to the street. It was no longer internal in nature.
The kitchen remained in the same location, as did the living and dining rooms but we sought to open up these spaces to one another and to the hallway. We spent a long time assessing various structural solutions with our structural engineer. From full demolition of walls in the living areas to more strategic and local demolition of sections of walls.
We found that the more strategic, surgical demolition not only saved our client money but also responded to a central part of the client brief to create or preserve wall space for the display of artwork. Retaining sections of wall also contribute to a layering of the space, a more nuanced rendering of spaces where one space leads on to another and another.
There was originally a single bathroom servicing four bedrooms so adding bathrooms meant finding solutions to create new connections to services like drainage and water. All of these new services needed to be coordinated seamlessly and invisibly with the architecture and interior design.