A Victorian Terrace House in London Gets a Bright, Brutalist-Inspired Rear Addition

A Victorian Terrace House in London Gets a Bright, Brutalist-Inspired Rear Addition

By Mandi Keighran
A careful renovation by DGN Studio results in a light-filled kitchen, dining area, and gathering space that celebrates the homeowners’ love of concrete.

When London-based couple, Rebecca and Roman, decided to renovate and extend their semidetached Victorian terrace near London Fields, they envisioned a bright and spacious room for cooking, relaxing, and entertaining. "We wanted to restore a balance to the house," says Daniel Goodacre, cofounder of DGN Studio, the local firm behind the renovation. "The rear addition forms a new heart to the home, offering a serene gathering space between the revitalized garden and the restored rooms at the front of the house."

The original home was in fairly poor condition: Insufficient foundations  had caused cracking, and the building needed to be fully rewired and replumbed. The interior spatial arrangement was also quite disconnected, with wonderfully proportioned rooms at the front of the home that got progressively smaller toward the back. In addition, there was no meaningful connection between the indoor living spaces and the garden.

"We wanted to maintain the feeling of a having a series of rooms with their own distinct characters, which felt important to the historic nature of the house," says DGN studio cofounder Geraldine Ng. "But at the same time, we wanted to open up long views through the house to pull light in and allow for a better flow between the spaces."

The front entrance to the renovated terrace house now offers a direct sight line to the rear garden, which draws guests into and through the space. Historic details in the entrance hall and stairway were carefully restored, and a secret door under the stairs leads to a narrow cellar space that was transformed into a utility room. 

The light-filled kitchen and dining room are located in a new, lowered level at the back of the home, which is accessed via large, concrete steps that deliberately double as informal seating. The cooking zone in the kitchen is delineated by a slightly lower ceiling.

A "snug" room between the front living area and the new kitchen/dining space allows the clients to immerse themselves in books, films, and music. "Rebecca is an actress and the couple are very engaged in theater, literature, poetry, and film," says Goodacre. 

Due to planning restrictions, it was impossible for the architects to build a taller extension, so lowering the new extension’s floor level was their only solution to create a more impressive volume. To create the lowered floors, the team at DGN Studio added structural concrete underpins to the existing walls. 

"We loved the idea of being able to read the sunken part of the house as an entirely concrete element, which would give the space a feeling of being grounded," says Ng. "[It also] provides a robust base for the timber frame and a series of plinths on which different activities can take place—such as sitting, cooking, reading, or exercising."

These groundworks were the most costly part of the renovation, which cost roughly $425,000. "Foundations are always a shockingly large expense," says Goodacre. "It’s a lot of money being poured into the ground. Digging down in London is also always very expensive due to the labor involved without large machinery."

The rear extension is defined by a material palette of exposed concrete and white-oiled oak, which was chosen for its durability, as well as its warm texture and grain. "The concrete was required for purely pragmatic reasons, but Rebecca expressed a real love for the material early on, which we were excited by," explains Ng. 

"There is a sculptural potential and a feeling of weight that concrete can bring to a space," the architect continues. "We are very aware of the dialogue around the sustainability of concrete as a building material, so we were keen to make sure its use was related to a specific set of practical tasks for which it would stand the test of time."

The new addition opens to the garden through a timber frame that’s infilled with alternating glazed and solid panels, which creates a filtered outlook to the garden and sky. "We carefully chose which panels were glazed in order to get light into the right places," says Goodacre. A row of sash windows also help expand the feeling of spaciousness in the kitchen.

"Much of the house felt disconnected, and the kitchen wasn’t a space we ever wanted to spend time in," the homeowners explain. "We love enjoying the full space of the extension—but there are still so many smaller moments around the house that we didn’t think we’d enjoy using as much as we do now." 

An axonometric drawing of the Concrete Plinth House by DGN Studio.

The ground floor plan of the Concrete Plinth House by DGN Studio.

The first floor plan of the Concrete Plinth House by DGN Studio.

A section of the Concrete Plinth House by DGN Studio before the renovation.

Another section of the Concrete Plinth House by DGN Studio before the renovation.

Related Reading:

A $100K Revamp Lifts a London Victorian to Memphis Heaven

15 Modern Additions to Traditional Homes

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: DGN Studio

Builder/General Contractor: Orsman Construction

Structural Engineer: Built Engineers

Cabinetry Design/Installation: E- Squared Joinery

Ironmongery: Dean Edmonds

Photographer: Nick Dearden at Building Narratives

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