Clifton Hill House is a refurbishment of a semi-detached Victorian villa in St John’s Wood, one of North London’s conservation areas. It appears conventional from the outside yet Patalab’s internal interventions spectacularly increases spatial connectivity within the house. Photography by Lyndon Douglas.
Clifton Hill House: The Brief
“Our brief was to consolidate the lower ground floor flat and the rest of the house to create a contemporary home for a growing young family. As part of our strategy to connect the flat with the main house we had to carefully consider how the garden and house would interact as until our involvement, the garden had only been accessible from the lower ground floor making the back garden’s lush greenery feel disconnected from both bedrooms and living spaces in the house.”
In response to this internal/external division, as well as the requirement to make the existing floor floors interconnected, we proposed a series of double-storey interventions.
A new staircase leads from the entrance hall on the raised ground floor down to garden level where the kitchen area feels like it extends into the garden via a new sunken terrace. The flow of this journey between levels is reinforced by the geometry of the staircase – tapered, getting wider as you descend to reach the garden, drawing you from the upper to lower level. A new 4.5-metre-high glazed opening at the bottom of the staircase compliments the stair’s crescendo to bring view of the garden deeper into the house. Externally, this tall window adds to the collection of existing openings in the rear facade, completing the composition and hinting at the new internal arrangement.
To the front of the property a new void creates a more dramatic Entrance Hall – whilst the plan of the space remains narrow, the ceiling height is doubled resulting in an unexpected and grander entrance to the house. Not only does this allow the entrance to claim more natural light through a first storey window but it also provides a setting for a new light feature. The Master Suite looks out on to this void increasing the bedroom’s connection to the floor below.
Providing a neutral palette for family life, the internal material treatment was kept deliberately simple. Bespoke joinery pieces are finished in light tones to allow their relief details to catch the increased daylight from the new staircase, and contrast with darker materials such as Belgian basalt and stained oak. We left the weathered brick facades untreated to conserve traces of the building’s 150-year history whilst window frames and rendered areas were decorated in grey tones to create subtle, soft and understated facades.