The Hearth House is a redeveloped Edwardian semi-detached house in North London that provides a new home for a family of five. Untouched since the 1940s the old house enjoyed a generous provision of space but was dark, spatially unvaried and saturated in the residue of the previous residents.
The client wanted to create a home that was tuned to the specific needs of the family, allowing the potentially separate lives of a couple and three teenage boys to coexist concurrently and beneficially. Having previously developed two homes the client knew exactly how she wanted to use the house but felt frustrated by traditional room descriptions. A careful consideration of the use of their old home allowed use and inhabitation to become the focus of the design.
The original brief, described through conversation, was developed into a drawn ‘spatial constitution’. This was the first stage in developing a shared language between the family and their architects and provided a stepping stone between the loose complexity of their evolving needs and the certainty of a three dimensional proposal.
Externally the house remains familiar yet has a significantly different character. Existing openings are retained but all the doors and windows have been replaced with black stained timber frames and single panes. This shifts the scale to that of a larger dwelling, increases the perceived weightiness of the facade and increases the daylight into the home.
The completed home has a diverse range of internal spaces, whose individual characters are defined by an assortment of architectural effects. The ground floor is a series of open sided rooms, visually connected by long glimpses yet distinct enough to allow different activities to go on at the same time in close proximity; dinner parties alongside guitar practice, homework by surround-sound football matches.
Upstairs the rooms follow a more traditional cellular form allowing every family member to retreat to their own space. Nooks, internal windows, screens and openings ensure the family can easily enjoy the more public areas of the house whilst maintaining their own desired level of privacy.
A triple height space, lit from above by an openable rooflight, brings direct sunlight into the heart of the north facing home. At its base a warm poured concrete hearth and stair provide a relaxed centre for family life, perfect for clambering and reclining. The pattern of the reclaimed chevron parquet flooring is repeated in the surface of the concrete, encouraging domestic and historical associations for an unfamiliar material and object.
The new stair uses an assortment of appropriate styles to meet both functional needs and aspirational needs; a Victorian moulded timber balustrade provides a grand ascent to a landing that divides in two; a laser-cut ply negative provides a similarly familiar but more enclosed escape to the bedrooms; and a Modern open tread steel stair to the attic maximises the daylight from above and enhances the feeling of lightness.
Elsewhere in the home traditional domestic elements are re-appropriated for similar effect; stair balustrades support a desk, picture frames create wardrobe handles and a skirting board becomes a handrail. The collage of new and sampled elements have been synthesised together with the existing fabric through a universal coat of warm off-white paint, imparting the home with an instant maturity.