Originally constructed as a house, this large four-storey property in Highgate had latterly been used by the Mennonite church as a religious centre. The Mennonite's hymn-singing is said to have inspired Brett Anderson as he wrote Suede's second album, whilst living next door. The Mennonites had knocked together three adjacent houses to provide a Study centre and had made a series of alterations to the building including a pair of concrete ʻstrong roomsʼ in the basement.
Our client purchased one of the three original houses, and we were asked to re-convert the property back into a house, thermally upgrading the existing fabric, replacing windows and services, and most significantly converting the existing basement into new living space.
The original basement was very much a secondary space, containing the aforementioned ʻstrong roomsʼ, storage areas and incoming services, and not much else. It did however have the best relationship to the large sloping garden. Because of this, we chose to locate the main living room at this level. The two main ground floor reception rooms were knocked through, and the floor cut away, to create a vast double-height space running from the front to the back of the house, and connecting the entrance level with the garden. Into this newly formed double height room, we suspended a 'tray' at the upper level to create a quiet living area overlooking, but separate from, the large kitchen living space below. We also cut a tall new opening into the rear facade to connect the room to the garden.
Into this opening went the largest sliding sash window we have ever come across, the bottom sash large enough that in its open position it allows free access to the garden. Generally, the new works are designed to integrate seamlessly with the old, whilst still having a contemporary character. This was achieved by a careful balance of restoration, sympathetic addition, and contemporary interventions.