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A tiny addition in square metre terms doesn’t tell the real story of the dramatic, light-centred reimagining of this London Docklands home

Location

Lagado Mews SE16

Local Authority

Southwark Council

Plot Type

Suburban

Project Type

Extension, Interiors

Accomplishment

New side extension, full reworking of ground floor and garden

Services by Urbanist Architecture

Project Architect, Delivery Architect, Planning Consultant, Interior Designer, Lead Consultant

Collaborators

Vesta Structures

Challenge

It’s far too easy to judge extensions by square metres alone. But what's just as important (if not more important) than the question “did you make the house bigger?” is “did you make the house better?”

When our clients came to us they already had permission to make their home larger with a rear extension. But the more they thought about it, the more they were convinced that it wasn’t the answer they were looking for. What they wanted was more light, a bigger kitchen that felt more open and a better entrance to the house. The rear extension didn’t achieve any of that.

What they were seeking was a much more collaborative relationship with their architects, to know they would be listened to and that their priorities would be at the heart of the project. And when they found us, they were encouraged by the fact that we take interiors so seriously.

Not everyone is ready to file away designs they paid for and start again. But this couple was sure there was untapped potential in their home and they weren’t ready to leave that unrealised.

Before & After

Solution

The house dates from the early stages of the redevelopment of the London docks in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The idea seems to have been to try to give the houses a bit of character rather than to build endless identical homes in the large development, however the result now looks like a curious collection of mix-and-match elements. This one had a later conservatory the owners didn’t like and a side passage with no obvious purpose, some of which was taken up by a lean-to.

Our plan was to demolish the conservatory and extend the house into the side passage instead. A trio of long skylight sections on the new side extension roof would bring more light into the now open plan ground-floor, complete with a large kitchen area. The awkward front door at 90 degrees to the street is replaced by one facing the road, and opening into an entrance hall area. This change also allowed us to make the ground-floor shower room much bigger and more comfortable to use. No more greeting guests by the entrance to the loo! And the currently pointless front section of the side passage becomes a properly landscaped front patio.

A pre-application meeting with the council allowed us to make some small changes to keep the design in line with policies, but largely the planning department was happy with what we were doing, and followed up by granting planning permission when we submitted our application.

When you factor in the unloved conservatory we were removing, our changes only amounted to a net addition of 2sqm. But the effect on the way the house feels was truly dramatic. Not much bigger, but emphatically better.

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