This vibrant remodel of a run-down London home proves that high design can be achieved on a low budget.
Fresh off their wedding and honeymoon, architect Richard John Andrews and his wife, Kristina, dove headfirst into a project that would scare off most newlyweds: a gut renovation of a ramshackle 1890s Victorian terrace house in need of "a lot of TLC."
Completed over the course of 14 months, the design-build project was a true labor of love. The couple opted to live on-site throughout the entire process, which meant packing the planning and design stages into just a few months to kickstart demolition.
"The self-build aspect of the project was a massive challenge," says Richard, who recently launched his eponymous architecture studio. "A lot of the work on a project of this scale takes two people, and there wasn’t two of us on-site most of the time. This made even lifting a large timber a logistical challenge which had to be overcome. Further to this were the psychological aspect of the build—maintaining the drive and morale needed to keep going for 14 months solid."
Twelve-hour work days, difficult weather conditions, and living amongst construction rubble tested the couple’s resolve. Although Kristina was fully invested in the build process, her work as a professional makeup artist often took her away from home for a week or so at a time, leaving Richard alone on the site. To keep costs low, Richard singlehandedly tackled the bulk of the labor—from groundwork and steelwork to brickwork and roofing—without the aid of a contractor.
The home champions the notion that high-quality building design need not be constrained by a tight budget. The couple’s resourcefulness led them to repurpose the structure’s original London stock brick, and to reconfigure the constricted terrace house layout—typical of narrow London homes—into an airy, open floor plan that caters to the couple’s love of entertaining. The resulting design encompasses two bedrooms and one bath in approximately 430 square feet.
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"There is a sense of craft, and of honest design that has been constructed to flow throughout these spaces," adds Richard. "As our budget was restricted in places, we wanted to create a bespoke kitchen without the premium price tag associated with the word, ‘bespoke.’ We designed, treated, fabricated, and assembled the entire kitchen ourselves using simple cutting lists supplied to local timber merchants and basic joinery skills learnt firsthand."
Richard is particularly proud of the cork used on the rear of the home, which he says works beautifully with the London stock brickwork. The sustainable material also inspired the project’s name: A Cork House.
Completed in July 2017 for £85,000, the renovation is but the first phase of an ambitious three-part plan the couple have for their property. Richard recently completed the second phase—the Light Shed—which will serve as a studio for his fledging architecture company in the spacious back garden.
The couple have also begun work on the third phase—a loft project that will expand the home to four bedrooms and two baths to better accommodate visiting family and friends.