1850s WRITERS’ HOUSE
Our brief was to refurbish and extend this Willesden terraced house for two celebrated writers, a novelist and a poet, to work in peace from home and to raise a family.
Our original proposal was to create a large, full-width rear extension, burying itself one metre into the ground to prevent overshadowing the neighbours. The new room would comprise two spaces: A cavernous dining area to the right, with cooking preparation space in the lower space to the left. Deep slots of light were cut through the grassy roof, reminiscent of the clients’ experience of Nero’s buried Palazzo D’oro in Rome.
The proposal was granted planning permission in 2008, but following the economic crash, the development was scaled back for construction.
In addition to creating a larger family dining space at the back, we formed two dedicated writing rooms, one at the front of the house, overlooking the street, and another at the back of the garden, with only fruit trees as a view. The old, 1850s house remained apparently unchanged, but everything was carefully renewed: Oak-framed sash windows from Canada, black slate from the Delabole quarry in Cornwall, blue-fired bricks from Staffordshire, chimney pots of Midlands clay, York stone slabs unearthed from the garden and floor boards reclaimed from an old school. The robust and patterned brick materiality of the new buildings is taken from a proud 19th century railway bridge nearby.
The new floor surfaces are poured asphalt - like the road under the bridge, ground down, highly polished and gently warmed with underfloor heating. Two new rooms now face each other across the garden: the writer’s retreat behind dull copper shutters and the family kitchen, prising itself open with slightly angled surfaces and mirror reflections. The material language develops from one end to the other: the kitchen’s tough and uniform white-glazed brick walls re-form in the pavilion in frayed-edge herringbone pattern, turning bricks around to show the whole, playing the bare salmon-pink clay off the finished white glaze.
QS: Robert Martell
Photographs, plans and 3D models by Studio Sam Causer