A Forgotten Warehouse Is Reborn Into a Light-Filled London Home

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By Anna Jones / Published by Dwell
Formerly a schoolhouse property, this rundown London warehouse breathes new life as a modern two-bedroom abode after a complex revamp.

It won't take long to realize why the dramatic conversion of the Defoe Road House was truly a labor of love. Completed as a personal project by James Davies of Paper House Project—a London–based architect and design studio—this intricate transformation was certainly no small feat. 

Thanks to the level of needed refurbishments combined with restricted site access and historical considerations, innovative construction and strategic design solutions were continuously required throughout the remodel. Yet, the hard work paid off, as the remarkable property is now virtually unrecognizable. Scroll ahead for a fascinating glimpse inside.

The rundown warehouse was in desperate need of constructive repair. In the initial stages of the project, complex negotiations were required to gain a right of way for access, connection to services, and ultimately permission for the building's new use. 

The rundown warehouse was in desperate need of constructive repair. In the initial stages of the project, complex negotiations were required to gain a right of way for access, connection to services, and ultimately permission for the building's new use. 

Redevelopments in the neighborhood had left the warehouse concealed inside a courtyard with access unsuitable for construction vehicles. Thus, the team had to design a kit of parts, with each component small and light enough to be carried by two people. These various parts were fabricated off site and then brought to the courtyard to be constructed in place.

Operable doors and windows provide fresh air ventilation off a newly created courtyard space.

Operable doors and windows provide fresh air ventilation off a newly created courtyard space.

From the exterior, the building blends in seamlessly with the vernacular of the neighborhood. The original brick cladding has been restored and filled with gridded steel frame windows to draw abundant natural light inside.

Gridded steel frame windows have been added throughout the home to provide natural daylight to the city dwelling, unique for a London residence of this type.

Gridded steel frame windows have been added throughout the home to provide natural daylight to the city dwelling, unique for a London residence of this type.

An interior courtyard is accessible from the bedroom, providing an unexpected secluded oasis.

An interior courtyard is accessible from the bedroom, providing an unexpected secluded oasis.

On the interior, there are light-filled, two-story volumes that provide unique spaces atypical of London homes in the area. The architect succeeded in creating these rooms through a close collaboration with a design engineer. As a result, the open plan minimizes the visible interior structure while creating a cohesive, voluminous space. 

A large living space combines the best of all elements: exposed cable trusses, steel framed windows, wood accents, polished concrete floors, mod finishings, and a simple pendant light. 

A large living space combines the best of all elements: exposed cable trusses, steel framed windows, wood accents, polished concrete floors, mod finishings, and a simple pendant light. 

Thanks to the combination of steel trusses with cable rod connections and a perimeter ring beam with concrete corner bonders, the original brick envelope is held together and to support the recycled slate roof. 

Shop the Look
Gubi Beetle Dining Chair
Gubi Beetle Dining Chair
Gubi’s Beetle is a collection of elegant and comfortable chairs, designed by Danish-Italian design duo GamFratesi. Stine Gam and Enrico Fratesi drew their inspiration for the playful chair design from the anatomy of beetles, which is apparent in the delicate, insect-like legs and hard, curved shell.
Menu Stick System
Menu Stick System
Wooden sticks and joints of steel are the components that transform the versatile Stick System into a shelving system, a clothing rack and a worktable; interior elements of strong constructions that are easily assembled and offer multi-functional solutions for residential use.
Menu Godot Sofa
Menu Godot Sofa
The Menu Godot Sofa is both a comfortable, generously sized sofa and versatile modern design element.
HAY About A Bar Stool
HAY About A Bar Stool
The bar stool About A Stool AAS 38 has the same capacity for transformation as the other members in the series, ranging from a minimalistic plastic stool to a more full-bodied upholstered version.
Menu Snaregade Oval Table
Menu Snaregade Oval Table
Thoroughly tested by founder and creative management. Originally Norm Architects designed a table especially for Bjarne Hansen – the creative director and founder at Menu. The table was meant for Bjarne's living room at home. While at it, Norm also manufactured some tables for their own studio.
CB2 Maya Wood Outdoor Chair
CB2 Maya Wood Outdoor Chair
Handmade by a family in a small Mexican workshop, wooden chair promotes a relaxed, natural vibe. Slats of tabebuia rosea wood from environmentally-responsible forests lean back and spread out to form a surprisingly comfortable seat. Tight on floor space? This chair folds for easy storage.
Large steel framed windows and doors frame the open kitchen and dining space.  Modern pendant lights hang above each cooking and eating surface.

Large steel framed windows and doors frame the open kitchen and dining space. Modern pendant lights hang above each cooking and eating surface.

Contemporary materials mix with warehouse remnants, resulting in an industrial aesthetic. The two-bedroom layout focuses on everyday living, creating open spaces quietly divided by the internal staircase. Daylight fills the interior through the new steel windows and an interior courtyard. 

A black marble backsplash contrasts effortlessly with the white walls and light wood panels throughout the home.  Flat panel cabinets add an extra modern flair.

A black marble backsplash contrasts effortlessly with the white walls and light wood panels throughout the home. Flat panel cabinets add an extra modern flair.

The staircase is concealed between wood paneled walls adorned with white, wooden slats, allowing light to filter in while also creating a subtle division between spaces. 

The staircase is concealed between wood paneled walls adorned with white, wooden slats, allowing light to filter in while also creating a subtle division between spaces. 

The wooden staircase winds its way between the living space and sleeping areas above.

The wooden staircase winds its way between the living space and sleeping areas above.

Custom built-ins provide functionality in every nook.

Custom built-ins provide functionality in every nook.

Vaulted ceilings allow for a spacious loft, complete with the second bedroom.  Skylights draw plentiful daylight into the airy space.

Vaulted ceilings allow for a spacious loft, complete with the second bedroom. Skylights draw plentiful daylight into the airy space.

Wooden panels provide a contrast of warmth against the white walls and fixtures. The clean lines and industrial materials combined with an innate understanding of the building's context result in a chic, contemporary dwelling that brings back to life a forgotten piece of property.

Wooden panels provide a contrast of warmth against the white walls and fixtures. The clean lines and industrial materials combined with an innate understanding of the building's context result in a chic, contemporary dwelling that brings back to life a forgotten piece of property.

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Paper House Project

Builder / General Contractor: Hexagon Construction 

Structural Engineer: Michael Humphries