Space is the Place
How GSA Architects designed-in a generous sense of space within an existing Victorian semi-detached property in the heart of Kensington.
The house is situated in a neatly appointed row of elegant early Victorian houses in a pretty tree lined street close to both Kensington High Street and Holland Park.
When architects talk about genius loci they are referring to a location’s distinctive atmosphere or spirit of place. With notable residents such as the Pre-Raphaelite painter John Waterhouse growing up nearby, the spirit here is of a refined, genteel bohemianism.
Although externally these houses may appear spacious, many architectural inadequacies remain, so when GSA were commissioned by a young family, to re-design one of these 4 storey dwellings they were tasked with rebuilding and extending the existing ‘conservatory’ type extension to the rear of the house.
By lowering the internal lower ground floor level, adjusting garden levels and making alterations to the projecting volume below the rear ground floor terrace as well as making various internal changes to the upper levels, GSA were able to give the whole house a more contemporary and sophisticated feel.
It is within the innate modus operandi of architects to reconfigure space, they find ways to make more room, open out or install ingenious new light sources, hide away all your clutter and generally make for a more stress free negotiation of everyday living.
One of the first things the architects identified was that the central area of the existing lower ground floor space had little or no purpose whilst the kitchen and sitting room were pushed to either end. Having explored various options they concluded that the central space should be where the working parts of the kitchen are located. Large glazed sliding doors, not only improve daylight but when fully open make the dining area feel like part of the garden and vice versa.
Externally, the existing steps were pushed back into the garden creating a small patio area. A gentle slope up to the garden level was introduced using porous materials so that plants could grow up through the steps. All these changes allowed for a much softer and greener appearance.
A key concern of the client was that the house should feel homely and warm, so often the school of ‘less is more’ architectural minimalism can result in a clinical regimented environment. This is why the materiality of this project became such an important part of the process.
Timber flooring was used throughout with the herringbone pattern in the kitchen/dining area being echoed in the outside areas.
Three different worktop materials were used in the kitchen, upon which GSA worked very closely with Roundhouse Design. The main cooking area has a stainless steel worktop, the island is marble and the breakfast bar is wood. The kitchen island and some detailing were brought out in brass. As Guy Stansfeld says “ I was hesitant about this initially but, in reality, the materials complement one another and the overall effect is perfectly harmonious”.
Colourful laminate, veneers and painted doors were used for the ‘out of sight out of mind’ generous storage solutions incorporated throughout the house especially in the utility room. It is in this room with its use of colourful Victorian style encaustic tiles that some of our original genius loci is brought into play. Although this room may evoke a spirit of Victoriana it is nonetheless completely contemporary in style and execution.