Plywood Partitions Divvy Up Space in a Free-Flowing London Townhouse

By Lauren Jones / Published by Dwell
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Nimtim Architects reimagines a ’70s residence for a growing family, creating simple, flexible rooms that connect with the garden.

In 2015, a young couple expecting their first child reached out to Nimtim Architects to extend their townhouse in Forest Hill, London, to make room for their growing family. Fruit Box, as the addition is called, was finally completed in 2020 after delays in planning and approvals—and none too soon, as the family had welcomed their second child during construction.

Photo by Megan Taylor

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Photo: Megan Taylor

"Research revealed the site had been a working commercial orchard right up to the moment the house was built in the mid-1970s," says Tim O’Callaghan, director and co-founder of Nimtim. As such, mature fruit trees dotted the landscape; the clients wanted to connect with the canopy on the first floor and transfer the main living spaces down to the ground floor, creating an indoor/outdoor flow between the home and the garden. They also requested that the addition be as flexible as possible, with an upstairs main suite and office.

Photo: Megan Taylor

The addition, which extends to the rear and side of the existing ground floor, addresses the awkward, triangular site and defines the new raised patio. For the interiors, the firm chose timber for "a hard-wearing internal finish and a gentle, humane scale within the space," says O’Callaghan. A series of semi-open plywood screens creates porous living, dining, and kitchen areas; in the latter, contrasting white ceramic tiles clad the countertops and backsplash, curved at the edges for child safety. 

Photo: Megan Taylor

Vertical glazing frames the trees, while long roof lights maximize light in the center of the formerly dark home. Finally, gray-and-blue linoleum flooring in angular patterns offsets the linear layout of the plywood partitions.

Photo: Megan Taylor

"The outcome is a family home that delivers and exceeds all of the requirements of the client and their family," says O’Callaghan. "The architecture is simple and modest in terms of scale and material, borrowing from and responding to context." 

Photo: Megan Taylor

Photo: Megan Taylor

Photo: Megan Taylor

Photo: Megan Taylor

Photo: Megan Taylor

Related Reading:

Before & After: A Faux Mountain Inspired by Disneyland Caps This Riotous Renovation in London

Project Details: 

Architect of Record: Nimtim Architects / @nimtimarchitects

Builder/General Contractor: Magic Projects / @magicprojectslondon

Structural Engineer: Blue Engineering

Flooring: Forbo/@forboflooringuk

Windows/Glazing: Velfac/@velfacwindows

 Roof Lights: Glazing Vision / @glazing_vision    

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