Tag Archives: new homes

 In praise of church conversions

 

Church conversions offer heavenly architectural features, soaring heights and quirky contemporary living spaces – usually at the heart of a community

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It’s not just buyers that love a church conversion, for developers they are a dream project, the chance to create a landmark residence, with unique living spaces. But taking on the double-height windows, crumbling spires, and leaking lead roofs is not a job for the feint-hearted, and it takes an experienced architect to sensitively configure the space. There is little more depressing than a badly converted church. Get it right though, and the results are remarkable.

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The 19th-century Saint Paul’s Church in Battersea was in a sorry state when developer Nick Laurence spotted it in 2013, but given the how rarely they come to market he jumped at the chance to buy it. “I was captivated by its potential and I could see that we could retain the church’s originality and ecclesiastical architecture, yet make intelligent adaptations to the existing structure and layout,” explains Laurence.

Today, the outside of the church looks much the same, although there’s a new roof that Laurence’s team travelled the country to source and completely reconditioned stained glass windows – but inside it has been divided in to four completely bespoke apartments across three new floors, the Apse, the Cloister, the Spire and the Tower.

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Throughout, the renovation has been as sympathetic as possible. “The church brought with it an innate sense of calm and a sanctuary away from London’s fast pace, so we sought to perpetuate that with the most natural materials that would complement rather than juxtapose the original edifice,” says Laurence. “We worked closely with our interior designer, Sarah Reed, to identify and retain as much of the church’s identity as possible.”

The three-bedroom Apse apartment is framed by double-height stained glass windows, while open plan living, dining and kitchen areas offer contemporary counterpoint. Any additions that have been made are based on century’s old stonework and hues, with tactile surfaces finished in oak, limestone, marble, linen and velvet to reflect the church’s timeless feel.

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“The Apse is a great example of how we’ve expanded on the existing structure with a new staircase, conceived to resemble a pulpit, with a thick rope bannister to evoke the ropes that ring church bells. We even handmade Gothic style arched doors.”

A mezzanine floor, complete with a library built into a huge arch that was the former altar, overlooks the living area and also harbours a hidden door in the library wall that leads to the jewel in the crown of the apartment: a 550-square-foot master bedroom suite.

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But it’s the Spire apartment, that includes the church bell tower, where the renovation of this project really comes to life. Laurence has turned it into a folly within the apartment – it is breathtaking, and offers its lucky owner panoramic views of the city. While some would have dismissed it as an unworkable space, Laurence has installed a viewing platform, which is wired for sound and illuminated by a five-metre-long, hand blown glass chandelier.

“We had a team of 12 joiners on site constructing a specially made wooden spiral staircase to provide access to this stunning space,” he explains.

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“Even after being on site for 18 months – at times with a team of 40 experts, overcoming obstacles and working with the challenges of a 160 year old church – I still find the building utterly compelling,” says Laurence. “Every visitor is awestruck.”

It’s rare to find such a well-restored and sensitively converted church, especially one that was formerly in such a state of disrepair – perhaps of this derelict building it was a case of divine intervention.

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The apartments at The Sanctuary are on the market from £1,650,000. Douglas & Gordon’s Battersea office on 020 7924 2000 or Winkworth’s Battersea office on 020 7228 9265.

Divine inspiration, three more ecclesiastical conversions:

St Joseph’s Gate, Mill Hill

Throughout the design and transformation of this Grade II-listed seminary, set in seven acres of grounds, the developer Berkeley has retained a host of original features, including the ornate Victorian staircases, imposing, feature windows and ornamental ironwork, all meticulously restored to its former grandeur. There are 59 luxury apartments in the gated development, starting from £899,995, and the showhome launched last week, contact 020 7718 5202, www.knightfrank.co.uk

 

The Lourdes Collection, Fulham

This historic Victorian Fulham church newly converted into nine luxury apartments, with a very modern feel, is moments from West Brompton underground. There are still three, two-bedroom apartments available, from £975, 000, 020 7368 4830, www.marshandparsons.co.uk

 

Oakfield Court, Bristol

Further afield, this new development launches in September and comprises 16 one- and two-bed apartments over four floors set within a beautifully converted church in Bristol’s highly desirable Clifton area. Expect kaleidoscopic stained-glass windows, high-vaulted ceilings, and even the church’s original arches – all have been retained and restored as part of the sympathetic conversion.

Prices from £225,000, 0117 317 1999, www.knightfrank.co.uk

 

ALISON TYLER

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A home fit for an architect

A micro-development of just three townhouses in a quiet, leafy Clapham street just off the Common by world-renowned architects Squire and Partners, famed for their flagship projects such as Chelsea Barracks and One Tower Bridge – it’s an intriguing combination.

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So when I met Henry Squire at one of the contemporary interpretations of a Victorian villa one sunny morning last week I wanted to find out more. It turned out that he hadn’t had far to come; his father and business partner, architect Michael Squire lives just two doors down.

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“This is the street I grew up on, and Dad moved here 30 years ago, so when we saw this old Eighties office block was up for sale – which never made sense on this very residential street – we just had to buy it,” explains Henry.

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Who better then, to take on the project of creating three new family homes than someone who already knows all the neighbours, and knows what people in the area are looking for.

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While they are undoubtedly “wow” homes they don’t look out of place and don’t overshadow or bully any of the neighbouring properties. There’s a modesty and simplicity about them from the outside – the huge picture windows still feel discreet somehow, while the bespoke metalwork on the balcony have been designed to mirror detailing that can be seen elsewhere in the road.

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Inside it is huge, with clean lines, and confident oversized parquet floors to match the spacious hallway, cloakroom, living room and library spaces on the upper ground floor. But there is still a sense of the Victorian villa here – in the drawing room there’s a real stone, marble-plinth fireplace; rich American black walnut timber has been used for all of the windows; the staircase curves up through the entire building and you can look up through all of the three floors to the top of the house.

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“We could have put in a lift, but I was just against it morally,” explains Henry. “I know we might lose a couple of buyers because of it but a family house like this shouldn’t have a lift – and you’d rarely climb all six floors at once. The same goes for comfort cooling, I just don’t believe a house like this needs it, you can just open the windows.” Although Henry does admit that they have installed comfort cooling in the bedrooms – these are the kinds of demands that international buyers want, and it is changing the shape of development in London, but Henry is confident about who will want this house and why.

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At the top of the building, three storeys up, a top floor media room have balconies on either side of the building, below it are six bedrooms, three of which have balconies. The master suite is luxuriously generous in size with a large, dressing area and a vast en-suite bathroom where Filetto marble combines with large porcelain tiles by Domus to create a serene, contemporary-but-not-too-cool finish.

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“We’ve deliberately kept it feeling neutral with room to personalise the space,” says Henry.

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“If we’d tiled it wall-to-wall there’s no opportunity for a buyer to make it there’s, so as the architect you have to hold back and restrain yourself a little.”

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The real selling point of this home, beyond its fantastic proportions and high quality finish, can be found on the lower ground floor.

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A separate, glass-sided staircase leads downstairs and is a taste of what to expect. Once downstairs you arrive at an entirely open-plan super-room that houses the kitchen, dining room, family snug, and a light-filled garden living room, separated by the rest of the room by a glass “sock” as Henry calls it. Sliding floor-to-ceiling glass doors span the entire back of the house, opening up the garden and living space seamlessly, while the walnut floor running the length of the inside gives a feeling of continuity. It is incredibly impressive without feeling brash, or smug, or over-the-top.

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“We could have put in a £250,000 kitchen, but again I just don’t think the house it needs it,” says Henry. “There’s not that much difference between a £50,000 kitchen and a £250,000 kitchen and it was important to us that it blends with the space well and functions well – this one is from SieMatic.”

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The Ceaserstone Osprey worktops and Filetto marble splashback feel as expensive as they look, while the copper pendant lights by Tom Dixon add a dash of contemporary colour into the mix. But you can see it would make a hard-working family kitchen in what is the ultimate family space. It’s a 21st-century version of knocking through the walls of a Victorian home that so many families have done up and down the capital, “our interpretation of the bourgeois break-through,” says Henry.

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Is it every architect’s dream to build their own home, I wonder? The answer, if this project is anything to go by, is “yes”. Henry’s father Michael Squire has actually moved into one of the three houses, leaving just two left for sale. And if it’s good enough for one of the world’s leading architects…

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The houses at Macaulay Road, Clapham are priced at £6.75 million, contact Savills on 020 3430 6900, www.savills.com.

ALISON TYLER

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A new Wimbledon ace

For Catherine Beagley, the sales and marketing director at Berkeley Homes (West London), the restoration and conversion of the former Atkinson Morley Hospital in Wimbledon, couldn’t have come soon enough.

showMedia

 

A Wimbledon girl all her life, she can remember the days when this was a working neurosurgical hospital and the many years that it has been closed and neglected since the last patient was treated in 2003.

Some of that neglect is evident as we work our way around the Victorian building – graffiti on the walls, remnants of fires and teenage vandalism that come with a derelict building, can be seen. You’d never imagine that this was once one of the world’s most advanced brain surgery centres.

But when Beagley and the team of architects and developers first walked around the site they could instantly see the potential “As soon as we walked the site we were buzzing with ideas about what we could do with it, where you could instantly see an incredible duplex apartment with a mezzanine and a vaulted ceiling, or how you could convert the chapel into its own self-contained apartment complete with the stained glass windows and wood panelling. Seeing inside the building, it just made sense.”

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She’s not the only one who is excited to see the transformation of what is a landmark local building. “Local people are really excited about the historic project and the level of interest is really high – people are clawing at the door to get in,” says Beagley of the highly anticipated launch of the apartments in the hospital building. “If you live locally, you cannot fail to want to see this building restored to its former glory. Working on this project, it’s one of those sites that you just know you’re going to be really proud of when it’s finished.”

The development of the historic space, which opened in 1869, has not been easy – in some places, around the soaring double-height bay windows there are cracks large enough to put your hand through, in others the beautiful curved brick ceilings are being protected and supported by a form of spray-on concrete that will hold them in place so that the detailing can be retained.

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It will be worth it though as period buildings, with their characterful features and interesting spaces, are a real draw for buyers who want the charm and personality. But most modern buyers also want the security of a new-home guarantee, of double-glazing and efficient heating. Character conversions such as this are the ideal compromise.

“Everyone loves a conversion,” says Beagley. “There’s a status thing to live in a grand building, but you get the best of both worlds as you don’t have the upkeep and maintenance that comes with an old building.”

It doesn’t get much more grand than the penthouse triplex apartment, which will even come with its own turret and Victorian wrought-iron railings – and a glorious south-facing view over formal gardens, and then landscaped mature parkland, followed by open playing fields – you almost can’t see another house around.

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One of the most exciting things about working with an old building like this is that the architects have top work with what already exists, so you get some really unique spaces – the duplex apartments in the wings of the hospital will have double aspect windows and mezzanine floors to make the most of the extraordinarily high ceiling heights.

Under the building there will be parking with a lift, while the development will also house a gym, concierge and a business lounge with wifi and a meeting room. And as part of the redevelopment of the site, Berkeley Homes is refurbishing Morley Park spots pavilion, which will provide sports facilities for the pupils at Ursuline High School which neighbours the parkland. As a former Ursuline girl herself, it’s no wonder Beagley feels proud of the project. “This site has got everything,” she says, “it’s a dream to work on.”

And for a very lucky few, it will be a dream to live in, too.

Wellington Row, the centrepiece historic hospital conversion at The Wimbledon Collection, launches this September. Two bedroom apartments at the development start at £1.15 million.  Find out more at www.berkeleygroup.co.uk or to register an interest call 0208 003 6139 or email sales@wimbledonhillpark.co.uk.

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Highly-developed interiors

Step away from the magnolia paint. The latest property developments are teaming up with star interior designers to give their homes the wow factor

Tom Dixon's Design Research Studio is behind the lofts at Upper Riverside, Greenwich Peninsula
Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio is behind the lofts at Upper Riverside, Greenwich Peninsula

Showhomes can be a bit like churches – beautiful to look at but once you’ve seen a few they all merge into one. The trouble is that they’ve become so neutral, with palettes of dove grey, café latte and cream, and their ubiquitous “luxury hotel” look that buyers struggle to distinguish one gloss white open-plan kitchen diner from the next.

If last decade has been all about the big-name starchitect building, the next will be about the interiors, too, as some brave developers are enlisting the help of the biggest names in interior design and styling.

Nicola Fontanella's Art Deco-inspired designs for Maine Tower at Harbour Central
Nicola Fontanella’s Art Deco-inspired designs for Maine Tower at Harbour Central

“The public is demanding more interesting spaces; social media such as Pinterest is making people increasingly aware and excited by architecture and design so the more pedestrian, beige look just isn’t cutting it anymore,” says Albert Hill, director of the Modern House, an estate agency that specialises in architecturally interesting homes.

“I also think that developers themselves enjoy working with more interesting designers rather than churning out the same old product – they are trying to stand out from the crowd,” suggests Hill.

Nicola Fontanella's Art Deco-inspired designs for Maine Tower at Harbour Central
Nicola Fontanella’s Art Deco-inspired designs for Maine Tower at Harbour Central

One development that will definitely stand out from its neighbours is Maine Tower, part of the flagship new Galliard Homes’ Harbour Central development of 901 homes, retail, commercial and leisure facilities that is about to launch in Canary Wharf. Stephen Conway, CEO of Galliard, which is London’s second largest residential developer, has called upon Madonna’s interiors style maven Nicola Fontanella of Argent Design to create an opulent Art Deco look that will bring the Manhattan glamour of the Great Gatsby era to Docklands. It’s a collaboration that came about by chance, when the two met on holiday and got chatting– but the results are far from your ordinary new-build specification flat.

Nicola Fontanella's Art Deco-inspired designs for Maine Tower at Harbour Central
Nicola Fontanella’s Art Deco-inspired designs for Maine Tower at Harbour Central

Planned as a ‘vertical village’ the 41-storey tower will have pockets of social space woven into the different levels, from a gym and spa, to a private cinema, cocktail bar and club lounge, and a library. All will have the trademark Fontanella stamp on them – expanses of glass, bronze-effect panels and polished plaster and stone walls, softened by deep sculptural sofas and glamorous soft furnishings.

The apartments add a touch of Miami Glamour, with blues, turquoise and splashes of gold and bronze, while the rich stone kitchen worktop and warm wooden floors make a contemporary update to the gloss kitchen and stripped floors of most new-builds. Studios will start from £350,000 and Harbour Central launches this Thursday [25 JUNE], www.galliardhomes.com.

Nicola Fontanella's Art Deco-inspired designs for Maine Tower at Harbour Central - a studio apartment
Nicola Fontanella’s Art Deco-inspired designs for Maine Tower at Harbour Central – a studio apartment

It’s a move that will surely have cost the Conway far more time, effort and expense, but one that he hopes will pay off. As Hill explains, “Developers are trying to move the public perception of developments from just being purely money-making vehicles to something with a little more vitality and integrity. And buyers are ready for that.”

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Over the water at Greenwich Peninsula, the former creative director of Habitat, product designer and head of his own Design Research Studio, Tom Dixon is responsible for the interiors of the Loft Collection, a limited edition release of 35 apartments at Upper Riverside (lofts from £720,000, www.themodernhouse.net). Featuring his signature use copper and with a strong industrial edge and a nod and a wink to British design heritage (think green enamel metro-style tiles reminiscent of a Victorian pub or tube station), the playful, bold scheme has had hipsters flocking to the area to get a slice of his residential style.

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Expect bright jewel–hued sofas, emerald green kitchen splash-backs, metallic tables and surfaces, industrial steel beams in the bathroom and incredible iridescent glass shower screens that refract the light like a rainbow. “The colours work to connect you either to the ground or the sky,” says Dixon. “They are strong and bright – they seem very modern and fresh but in fact they inspired by old painting of the area, the sunsets and the surrounding nature.”

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Even if you don’t manage to bag one of the remaining lofts, Dixon will have a hand in designing the public areas covering everything from street lamps to gardens, pavilions and he has already created the interiors for Craft, a sleek restaurant and bar on the peninsula. It’s all part of a wider “place-making” scheme, designed to attract a creative crowd of artists, theatre companies and designer-makers. Having a big-draw name on the design team, not only sets the style, it sets the tone that the master developer, Knight Dragon, is trying to achieve.

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“Tom Dixon is such a rare talent and such a bold designer that we knew he would create an alternative to the usual bland vanilla apartments so often found in new developments,” says Kerri Sibson, sales and marketing director for Knight Dragon. “We are creating a vibrant new destination with stunning modern architecture, and amenities including a skyline pool, so with Tom’s interiors we knew we would attract the sort of design-savvy crowd who would enjoy this. We intend to work with other such world-renowned designers in the future to continue to offer something different and exceptional.”

The Heals interiors at The Corner House
The Heals interiors at The Corner House

In Fitzrovia, developer Derwent London has collaborated with designer furniture store Heal’s on the homeware brand’s first residential development in its 200-year history, which will breathe new life into a converted office building – the vast amounts of glazing and industrial hangover from the property’s former life will lend themselves perfectly to the understated, pared back aesthetic of the Heal’s style.

“Curating the look and feel of the apartments of The Corner House has been a great experience,” explains Heal’s creative director Carmel Allen. “Both Derwent and Heal’s believe in creating personal spaces rather than over-stylised designs so each room has a very liveable feel. Sometimes show flats are just that, all ‘show’, but we believe that giving a space a relaxed, modern feel is the right direction.”

The Heals interiors at The Corner House
The Heals interiors at The Corner House

What’s more, residents will be able to use a Heal’s stylist to help design their own bespoke interior to complement their apartment, and as part of the collaboration, they will be entitled to a home consultation from a stylist and a 10 per cent discount on and purchases, as well as invites to design events, previews and workshops at the store, which is handily, just across the street on Tottenham Court Road.

The first six apartments have just been pre-released ahead of the remaining five, but et in quick as a new home on Charlotte Street won’t hang around long. Two-bedroom apartments from £1.75 million, www.cornerhousew1.com.

ALISON TYLER

 

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The invisible house

Can you build a contemporary home in a conservation area sensitively? Here’s one that succeeded, against the odds…

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Ken Martin is a man who drinks a lot of coffee, 4,200 cups in the last two years to be precise, according to his intelligent Gaggenau coffee machine that takes pride of place in the high-tech modern kitchen that he designed himself – but then, having self-built a daring black glass box of a house, in the middle of a Conservation Area in London, the retired lawyer has probably needed the caffeine.

But far from the drained, husks of people that you often see on the likes of Grand Designs after a self-build project, Ken is still brimming with enthusiasm two years on from completing his epic build.

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Despite its bold lines, from the outside the black glass house has an incredibly calm quality, reflecting the trees and sky and the Victorian houses opposite. In one corner the yew trees almost melt into the house, like a vertical pool shimmering the tree back upon itself.

Yet sitting inside this incredible stealth house – I call it that because, like the planes, in certain light, it literally recedes into the surrounding trees so that you almost don’t notice it is there ­– is like being inside a Scandinavian cabin in the middle of the woods. It is utterly tranquil, quiet and cosseting, like being hugged by the trees around us. No wonder he hasn’t bothered with curtains, with views like this, nor would I. And while the exterior is all glass, steel with clean, sharp lines, inside it manages to feel homely and warm – you don’t feel like you’re sitting inside a stark glass box.

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This is thanks in part to Ken’s own interior style. “This is my family home and that is how I planned it, so there’s a mixture of our things – we didn’t go an buy all new stuff to create a showhouse, it needed to feel comfortable and like our home.”

So there’s a range of furniture from Mid-Century Ercol sofas (one of which Ken rescued from a south London skip) and String shelving, a 1920s oak chair from Heals, an 1870s early Arts and Crafts cabinet, a contemporary floral Pinch sofa, and a thoroughly modern Dutch suspended central fireplace, which is never needed because the house is just so darn energy efficient.

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The warm iroko wooden window frames and blonde wood floor add to the almost tactile atmosphere.

But turn the other way and behind double pocket doors (that slide into the walls), the all-white, minimal kitchen, dominated by a vast square Corian island, is revealed, giving a new perspective to the home.

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Because, for all you could forget your surroundings when sitting inside looking out, this house is a highly engineered, and expertly designed modern build.

Ken has lived in 11 homes since buying his first place in 1986, and each time he’s wanted to do a little bit more, from replacing kitchens, to renovating, remodelling, and eventually adding a Mansard floor to his previous home in Dulwich. That gave him the bug to go further and build his own home, so he began to search for an opportunity.

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In 2007, he, his wife and daughter, moved into the neighbouring house in Forest Hill – a beautiful 19th-century cottage that came with a good 500-square-metre plot that had planning permission granted on it many years earlier. It wasn’t the easiest site, a sloping plot sitting at the end of a private, gravel track road that fades into Albion Millenium Green, a wild and overgrown dingly dell that supports wildlife and acts as an almost rural backdrop.

He invited his friend the architect Ian McChesney, who is as known for his sculptures as his properties, and who had created the pavilion for Avenham Park in Preston along similar lines, to come down and have a look. “He’s as mad as a fish but a visionary about how things should look,” says Ken. “I just let him have a think about how we could exploit the space – I knew I wanted to do something modern and appropriate for the location, but beyond that my only brief was that it should be less tall, less deep and less wide than any of the other homes on the street. I didn’t want it to be over-developed or to feel greedy. I think that would have been taking the piss – you should always ask for what you want and then stick with that.”

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When the plans went in to Lewisham Council in 2008 there were 68 objections, despite the fact only a handful of houses are even near to the plot, but Ken, who’s passion for the project is still infectious today, personally spoke at the heated council planning meeting to defend his plans and make the case for his future family home.

“I don’t think the fact that it was a conservation area made it that much harder – what was important was that the building enhanced the area around it, but that is as important to me as it was to the planners and objectors. One thing that did help was that I had a great planning officer who understood what I wanted to achieve, and the fact that the houses on the road are so different, from a Fifties council block to 1920s and Victorian houses, also helped the argument that this building should be of its time.”

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It took until 2009 before plan was approved and a further three before work began, but once it did, Ken didn’t waste any time. He began in February 2012 and the house was up by the October, though not without a few nerve-racking moments.

Ken project managed the whole build and was there everyday coordinating everything from the 28 metal piles that the wooden frame of the house simply sits on, to the aluminium shell that wraps around that, and finally, the black glass – made and imported from Façade Concepts in Germany – and iroko wood frames that complete the build.

“I was like the Ringmaster gathering all of the different people together to work on the project at the same time and trying to get the best from them.”

One of the hairiest moments was the delivery of the glass panels down the very narrow lane, “one of them broke,” says Ken. “We had to wait two months for another panel to be made and then brought over Germany, and then it had to be literally man-handled in by the Albanian crew because they could get the lorry down.

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Ken sourced virtually everything from the internet, whether it was the Swedish firm Scandia Hus who supplied the wooden frame to learning to use Google Sketch Up to create his own designs or coming up with the kitchen himself, which he based on a Baulthap design but created himself for a fraction of the cost – “anyone could get these huge drawers made if they wanted to, you just create them from MDF and then get them sprayed, any good car garage could do it,” he says casually as if it’s nothing extraordinary.

“Without the internet this wouldn’t have been possible, I couldn’t have researched it otherwise. Everyone is motivated by watching Grand Designs, but not many people realise that you can do it with a reasonable eye and determination. Using the internet I have managed to combine the uniqueness of something bespoke but with the security of a manufactured house.”

Ken describes himself as a “serial mover” rather than a developer – “there’s no way you’d build a house like this if you just wanted to sell it, you have to feel it and be doing it with a passion, rather than an economic vision” – but now he’s been bitten by the building bug he’s ready to do it again, just as soon as he finds the right opportunity.

“I don’t think we could ever live in an ordinary place again after living here, it’s just marvellous.”

The Tree House is for sale for £1,595,000 with www.themodernhouse.net

Ken’s top 10 tips for self-building:

Buy the best location you can find, and afford, – the build will cost the same wherever it is but the location will make all the difference.

Use an architect and put faith in them – they think about things in an odd way and can visualise the way stuff will be in a space; most people can’t do that.

That said, it is important to also know what you want and to be able to explain that to your architect, learn to talk their language.

Decide what it is you want to do and be confident about it – if you have a good scheme and a good ‘story’ about the building and what it is going to do, you will win planning permission.

Be visionary. The more you compromise and dilute your ideas the less successful the build will be.

Don’t scrimp and save on the materials, they’ll only be around 40 per cent of your final cost anyway, so it’s worth getting them right.

Don’t get carried away with kitchen designs, you’ve got to live with it – and cleaning is a big deal.

Learn to use software like Sketch Up so that you can try out designs for yourself.

If you can be on site during the build, you should. You will not get what you want if you are not there.

Don’t change your mind – stick with your plan, I drew all mine on Google Sketch Up.

 

The rise of stealth homes

Eidolon House in Highgate has been clad with mirrors
Eidolon House in Highgate has been clad with mirrors

With the government’s news that all of us will get the “right to build” in the new housing bill – obliging councils must do more to support self-builders, helping them to find suitable plots and making land available – there could be a new wave of innovative developments in the capital.

One of the biggest issues in London is trying to create housing in Conservation Areas and on awkward plots sensitively. The answer is hidden and disguised homes that don’t compromise the existing land- or streetscape, like the Tree House has done.

Zaha Hadid's Investcorp building at Oxford University
Zaha Hadid’s Investcorp building at Oxford University

Sitting opposite Highgate Cemetry and in a Conservation Area, Eidolon House, completed last year by Dominic McKenzie Architects, is thought to be the first mirror-clad house in London. Using polished stainless steel to clad the building and reflect the tree opposite, the building changes its hue with the seasons and time of day.

St-Antonys-College-by-Zaha-Hadid_dezeen_468_14

At the University of Oxford Zaha Hadid’s new Middle East Centre was conceived by the architect as a reflective tunnel suspended in space – the glass front reflects the existing Victorian buildings while the curved mirrored stainless steel sides reflect the sky, spires and trees that surround it. The result is bold and strikingly modern, yet recessive at the same time.

Trinity Crescent in Tooting Bec
Trinity Crescent in Tooting Bec

In Tooting Bec, Trinity Crescent is a new development of two homes that are hidden from view so that you wouldn’t even know they exist, despite each one offering more than 3,000 square feet of luxury living space. They are on the market from £2.25 million with www.featerstoneleigh.co.uk.

ALISON TYLER

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