When British architect Mat Barnes, director of Critical Architecture Network (CAN), was approached by a client living in a Victorian terrace house in Brockley, South London, the initial brief was simply to increase light in the kitchen by enlarging the windows. As the conversation progressed, however, Barnes began to compare the cost of this initial request with that of adding a side extension. The clients soon agreed, and the result is a boldly striped addition that plays with both volume and materiality.
The clients had already decorated the front half of the ground floor, but the back half was still home to a dark and narrow kitchen that was crowded with a boiler and utility space. The new extension opened the kitchen up and added another living space, which is used for entertaining and family time. This allows the existing front living room to be used more specifically as a TV room and snug in the winter.
The main challenge in the renovation was the low ceiling height in the existing kitchen and a large chimney breast that dominated the space. CAN overcame the low ceiling by lowering the floor level as much as possible, which added over 15 inches of height to the space and created a level threshold with the garden.
"Removing the chimney breast took a bit of structural gymnastics, as we had to support the breast on the floor above as it was connected with the neighbors," says Barnes. "But this was definitely worth the hassle and cost."
Barnes wanted to play around with the materiality of the extension, to avoid creating "one bulky mass of brick." So, instead of using masonry, the team treated each element of the extension differently, creating a graphic interplay of pattern and material. "Each volume’s material treatment is on a scale of subtle to bold," explains Barnes.
The existing first floor, made of brickwork, was painted white and fitted with new aluminum windows. The side extension, which is set back slightly from the main elevation, features a light gray, ribbed render with matching metalwork, and the nib wall has been clad in gloss white tiles. "The side extension takes it up a notch," says Barnes. "The textures are important here to emphasize that the color of the render and metalwork matches the windows."
Shop the Look
The boldest volume, which contains a large glass pivoting door leading to the garden, is the visual focus of the extension. The dramatic stripes—which reference the more subtle vertical lines of the ribbed render in the side extension—have been created using offset Douglas fir battens, alternately painted light gray and gunmetal blue. "Because of the large expanse of glass, we wanted to use a striking material to frame it," says Barnes. "We were looking at painted timber buildings in Greenland, which are typically bright block colors. We initially were going to go for a solid blue, but we felt it didn't emphasize the vertical lines enough, so we opted for a contrasting color. There may also be a subconscious British beach hut influence in there somewhere!"
A pink curtain—with a wave profile that echoes the vertical lines on the exterior—adds color and texture to the muted interior and acts as shading for the home on hot days. A large, single-pane pivot door allows the space to be fully open to the garden, without mullions as would have been needed with bi-fold or sliding doors. "We wanted to create as seamless a visual connection as possible when the door is closed and for the external and internal spaces to feel as one when the door is open," says Barnes.
The interior was kept very muted with bright, white surfaces designed to bounce light around the extension. The same glossy white tiles that were used on the exterior have been used to clad a brick pillar and the back of a plant shelf that sits beneath a skylight. The kitchen joinery is whitewashed Douglas fir joinery with an enamel splatterware worktop. Douglas fir is also used for the structural timber fins and window reveals in the side extension. "I enjoy the contrast between the bold exterior and pared-back interior," says Barnes.
"I loved seeing the clients and their children using the new space—especially the children running between the garden and the kitchen through the curtain. The rear extension and new kitchen-diner has made the garden more accessible and become the new heart of the home for the family."
Architect of Record: CAN
Builder: John D Ltd.
Structural Engineer: Symmetrys