In Northeast England, the ancient city of York teems with L-shaped, Victorian-era terrace homes—like that of Paul Kirkman, the director of a local museum, and his wife Lilly Shahravesh, a textile designer. Theirs, which was purchased in a state of disrepair, is located in a designated conservation area populated by similarly proportioned buildings of handmade York brick. Their architect, Ben Allen, describes it as "a landscape almost completely of one material."
Paul and Lilly reached out to London-based Studio Ben Allen to address necessary upgrades to the windows, bathrooms, kitchen, and electrical and plumbing systems. They were also interested in creating a new workroom or studio, and an extension to the house—what Allen calls "the most open part of the brief."
The concept for the addition was to convert the rear of the house—whose more industrial, secondary brick facade faced a small yard and an alley—into a light-filled work, dining, and storage space.
Taking these ideas into consideration, Allen was inspired by the "local York brick facades, yards, and lanes" and designed the addition out of handmade York brick, whose handcrafted nature lends a rustic, textured appearance that ranges from brown to pale pink.
However, rather than following the traditional, rectilinear forms of the existing buildings, Allen created two tall barrel vaults whose load-bearing arches are simultaneously modern and connected to the area’s past. The creative approach brings a sculptural aspect to the material, and the transom windows at the top of the arches allow plentiful sunlight.
In plan, the extension wraps around a small courtyard, turning the former small backyard into an outdoor room—a "room within a room," as the architect describes it. The extension contains the kitchen, living, and work spaces, and the motif of the arches is repeated throughout the renovation, including the open shelving below the sink, which is made of poured-in-place concrete and supports the matching concrete countertop. Shelving and cabinets are crafted out of solid oak with minimalist, simple detailing.
Throughout the project, materials were selected for their warm tones, simple but robust appearance, and, importantly, ability to last and improve with age—like the brick that inspired the addition itself. The renovated first-floor bathroom features exposed brass taps and accessories, and the stairs leading upstairs were made from kit-of-parts pieces milled out of birch plywood.
This not only allowed for cost savings, but also meant quick and easy assembly on site. Similarly, the kitchen and bedroom millwork and cabinetry was laid out to be as material- and cost-efficient as possible. The result is a home that is clearly of its own era, but will feel timeless as it patinas over the years.
Structural Engineer: Mason Clark Associates
Contractor: J A Pike Building Contractor Ltd
Joinery & Millwork: Broadleaf Joinery