The house is a double fronted mid-Victorian detached house originally with five floors including a modest basement and attic. The client brief was to design a full basement that reached under the front garden and part way under the rear garden. This was one of the last basement planning consents to be obtained before the restrictions were brought in by the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in 2015.
The brief was for a basement pool, gym and cinema room. It was also a key aim to achieve a sense of fluidity and connection between all the lower reception floors to ensure there were no ‘dead’ spaces within the house, rooms that are hardly ever used except for occasional events. A split section that created interim levels between the conventional ground and basement was developed. These are the main raised ground floor level where there is the main entrance and reception rooms, the next half level down for the dining room, the next half level down for the family kitchen/dining, pantry, laundry and then the next full level down for the swimming pool, gym and cinema room. The rear of the house was extended to create the dining room terrace with clerestorey windows to the pool. There are internal views through the open staircases and internal windows throughout the reception areas of the house.
Floors at first, second and third floor are more conventional in section. However the original staircase position was changed and a new staircase sited for these upper floors that ensure maximum efficient floor use for the bedrooms above. Again with the open risers, visual connectivity and openness is achieved and each landing has a main window looking south towards the rear garden.
The planners were very particular about maintaining the appearance of the house and only allowed a limited intervention to the rear elevation as they wished to preserve the Victorian hierarchy of the fenestration and massing. The rear elevation is therefore a contemporary interpretation of the Victorian architecture of adjacent houses.
The materials used are limited to a small palette of white, oak and porcelain tiling with additional materials such as aspen timber and velvet in specific areas such as the pool and cinema room respectively. The design allows the light and space to be the main elements with the sculptural staircase and split levels to create dynamics within the house. The upper floors are the lightest and simplest while the basement has the darkest colour bringing in a sense of nature and the outside. For instance the dark grey pool tiling is reminiscent of a mountain cave pool; the aspen cladding echoes a forest with the vertical boarding that also functionally incorporates hidden services and storage. The basement home cinema is finished in dark grey velvet as a reference to 1930s glamour.
The co-consultants on the project were as follows:
Structural engineer – Cundalls
Mechanical and Electrical – Will Potter Partnership
Quantity Surveyor – Terry Comber Associates
Lighting – Nulty Lighting
Pool Specialist – Advance Pools
Main Contractor – Akarana
Interior Decoration – Sarah Delaney Design
Landscape Designer – Richard Sneesby