Before & After: A Cramped Victorian in London Lightens Up With a Double-Height Renovation
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Before & After: A Cramped Victorian in London Lightens Up With a Double-Height Renovation

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By Melissa Dalton
A narrow, mid-terrace house in Brook Green now enjoys a lustrous, double-height kitchen and dining room.

The homeowner of Brook Green House, who’s in the medical field, was newly in possession of his childhood home—only now with his partner and young children in tow. The original house, a narrow Victorian mid-terrace built in the 1860s in the eponymous neighborhood of Brook Green, London, had four floors, including a dark basement kitchen that provided the only door to the backyard. 

Before: The Front

Before: The mid-terrace Victorian house in London’s Brook Green neighborhood had three floors above ground and a ground-level basement kitchen that accessed the rear garden.

Before: The mid-terrace Victorian house in London’s Brook Green neighborhood had three floors above ground and a ground-level basement kitchen that accessed the rear garden.

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After: The Front

The front façade received new windows and doors, refurbished door furniture, and a unifying coat of Farrow & Ball Downpipe paint on the trim and front door.

The front façade received new windows and doors, refurbished door furniture, and a unifying coat of Farrow & Ball Downpipe paint on the trim and front door.

Two problems created a lack of light in the main living areas of the home: the narrow and deep floor plan, as well as an existing glass-roofed rear extension, which was the only space that really got to enjoy the sun.

Before: Kitchen and Rear Extension

Before: The home has a long and narrow floor plan, so one of the goals of the renovation was to bring sunlight deeper into the interior.

Before: The home has a long and narrow floor plan, so one of the goals of the renovation was to bring sunlight deeper into the interior.

This door in the existing extension provided the only access or view to the rear garden.

This door in the existing extension provided the only access or view to the rear garden.

Another goal of the renovation was to improve access between floors beyond this narrow, enclosed staircase.

Another goal of the renovation was to improve access between floors beyond this narrow, enclosed staircase.

The natural light was limited to this rear extension tacked off of the kitchen.

The natural light was limited to this rear extension tacked off of the kitchen.

A view of the exterior of the poorly-utilized rear extension.

A view of the exterior of the poorly-utilized rear extension.

Architecture for London responded with a plan that reconfigures the rear of the house, punching through the first floor to connect it to the basement with a double-height kitchen and dining room. Granted, this meant losing a reception room at the rear of the first floor in order to make way for the dramatic vertical space. "The rear reception rooms of most houses are the least used," says lead architect Amrit Marway. "After completion, the client never really felt that they were missing a room." 

After: Kitchen and Dining 

The firm specified an opening at the first floor to connect it with the new kitchen and dining room below. The reconfigured glass extension allows light and views deeper into the narrow house.

The firm specified an opening at the first floor to connect it with the new kitchen and dining room below. The reconfigured glass extension allows light and views deeper into the narrow house.

Now, tall walls of glass on the rear facade stretch 4.8 meters high ( nearly 16 feet), bringing copious light to two floors. A streamlined material palette, including soap-washed Douglas fir, polished concrete, and natural stone unify the newly renovated spaces into a calming whole.

When asked about the curved ceiling over the new kitchen, Marway says, "Where we had sharp angles in the cut-out floor plate, glass box roof-light, and underside of stairs, we decided to install gentle curves to soften the hard lines." The pendant lights over the table are Plumen Drop Hat Lamp Shades, and the chairs and table are by Carl Hansen.

When asked about the curved ceiling over the new kitchen, Marway says, "Where we had sharp angles in the cut-out floor plate, glass box roof-light, and underside of stairs, we decided to install gentle curves to soften the hard lines." The pendant lights over the table are Plumen Drop Hat Lamp Shades, and the chairs and table are by Carl Hansen.

The floors are Oak End Grain Helvetica by Solid Floor, combined with bespoke handmade cabinetry by Grovecourt. 

The floors are Oak End Grain Helvetica by Solid Floor, combined with bespoke handmade cabinetry by Grovecourt. 

Cast concrete counters overlay a brass sink (the Alveus Monarch Quadrix 50) and are bedecked with a Vola single mixer lever in natural brass.

Cast concrete counters overlay a brass sink (the Alveus Monarch Quadrix 50) and are bedecked with a Vola single mixer lever in natural brass.

The staircase was moved to the other side of the room and is now a sculptural focal point, thanks to a striking material change from wood to concrete. 

The staircase was moved to the other side of the room and is now a sculptural focal point, thanks to a striking material change from wood to concrete. 

"The concrete then carries on to form a work surface and kitchen countertop," says Marway.

"The concrete then carries on to form a work surface and kitchen countertop," says Marway.

The architects carved out a workspace on the first floor that allows the homeowner to oversee the ground floor while working from home. 

The architects carved out a workspace on the first floor that allows the homeowner to oversee the ground floor while working from home. 

The soap-washed Douglas fir warms the cool industrial concrete, while "brass highlights add small glints of light, and marble thresholds between rooms add a luxury feel to what would otherwise have been a very pared-back palette," says Marway. 

The firm ensured that the brass accents were continuous throughout, including an elegant tension rod that suspends the first floor over the lower level. "This was originally a steel finish, and we sourced a foundry near Birmingham who were able to refinish it in polished brass," says Marway.

A detail shot shows how the rear extension was streamlined. "The extension at lower ground floor is finished with a natural Portland Roach stone with fossilized fragments," says the firm. "The stone continues to form the surface of the patio, which is accessed from the kitchen via a bespoke Douglas fir-framed sliding door."

A detail shot shows how the rear extension was streamlined. "The extension at lower ground floor is finished with a natural Portland Roach stone with fossilized fragments," says the firm. "The stone continues to form the surface of the patio, which is accessed from the kitchen via a bespoke Douglas fir-framed sliding door."

Before: Bedroom

Before: In a bedroom, the detailing on the cupboards and fireplace skewed traditional.

Before: In a bedroom, the detailing on the cupboards and fireplace skewed traditional.

After: Bedroom

Now, bespoke wardrobes by Grovecourt flank the fireplace, which was newly painted. Hearth tiles are from Bert and May. 

Now, bespoke wardrobes by Grovecourt flank the fireplace, which was newly painted. Hearth tiles are from Bert and May. 

After: Children's Bedroom

All of the timber throughout the project was supplied directly from Denmark by PA Savværk Korinth.

All of the timber throughout the project was supplied directly from Denmark by PA Savværk Korinth.


Before: Brook Green House section

Before: Brook Green House section

Brook Green House section. The renovation also included the addition of a loft floor at the top of the building (not photographed.)

Brook Green House section. The renovation also included the addition of a loft floor at the top of the building (not photographed.)