London–based architect Neil Dusheiko had to talk his wife Lucy into buying a narrow, Victorian terrace house in the northeast neighborhood of Stoke Newington.
She wasn’t that enamored with the gloomy basement and the home’s split levels, but the architect saw it as full of potential. "I said, ‘No, look, it’s really good, we can exploit the level changes and get massive amounts of light into the living room and kitchen as they’re facing east.’ She said, ‘Ok, I trust you to make it work,’" explains the architect. And he did.
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They bought the property in 2010, but it wasn’t until 2017, and two children later, that the couple could start working on the house in earnest. Dusheiko employed Mark Skehill from Sygnet Style Building Projects to gut the house, which was no longer big enough for his growing family.
As the basement had low ceilings, Dusheiko decided to push all the floors up by about 30 centimeters to provide more head height and take down all partitions to create a connected living room and kitchen area, as well as a play den that doubles up as a guest bedroom. He also moved the descending staircase to face the garden.
"By taking all the walls down and moving all the floors up, we were able to get natural light into the house and create a physical connection between the new living room and kitchen and the garden," he says.
They removed part of the rear facade to allow for a large, sloped, double-story skylight to bring light into the first and second floors, where Dusheiko has a home office. The floor above has the children’s bedrooms while the roomy master bedroom in the new mansard attic extension has an en-suite bathroom with a retractable skylight. "I’m originally from South Africa, and my wife is half Swedish, so the whole thing of being able to shower outside and be closer to nature was important to us," says the architect.
The palette of muted green, dusty pink, light blue, and white and a veritable forest of various timbers imbues the home with a warm palette. "I’m completely wood obsessed, and I wanted to experiment a lot with different species," says Dusheiko. For instance, there is frosted oak panelling in the kitchen, the bathroom ceiling is lined with cedar, and the ceiling of the main bedroom has Douglas fir rafters.
On the outside, the existing 1980s extension was clad in a richly textured, warm-hued Cumaru wood. The lightweight bespoke handrails, crafted in sapele wood, winds all the way from the basement to the top floor.
"The most incredible thing about the house was that it was so collaborative; so many people had a say in it, but as an architect I was able to set up a framework for people to do their best work," says Dusheiko. "It was a labor of love."
Builder/General Contractor: Sygnet Style
Structural Engineer: Momentum
External timber cladding: Woodtrend
Staircase handrail: Bespoke Handrails