West London Townhouse

Unmodernised In Notting Hill

The project is the refurbishment of a London townhouse from the 1870s; it was a decade that saw Graham Bell’s first prototype telephone and Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb. There were also advances in construction with increased professionalism and new technology – with the advent of plate glass, large windows could be fabricated with fewer glazing bars. But building was still a craft and there are no straight lines in the fabric of this house.

Revealing Historic Layers

When we refurbish a 150 year old house that is barely modernized, lots of curiosities are unearthed. Peeling back the layers of old carpet, underlay and then floorboards reveals the history of the building and some of its inconsistencies. At first floor level, original timber joists appear; they are solid and very deep, more so than modern joists, while in the roof the original timbers barely support the slate tiles. You also find the odds and ends of other stories - a scrap of newspaper from the 1950s and then the glint a crisp packet unmistakably from the 1980s and alarmingly intact.

Woldon are soon to be completing the refurbishment of this tired 19th century townhouse and garden in Notting Hill as an elegant and contemporary home. Our task has been to balance the apparent gymnastics of retaining and revealing the house’s character while providing almost total modernization. Our intervention is at times extreme, with demolition and new steels, to more subtle - new finishes, ironmongery and cornices. Often our skill is knowing when and how far to intervene and knowing when to stop.

Connecting House and Garden

A theme of our work is integrating thoughtfully the design of a house and its landscape. In this case, the client is themselves an established landscape designer. The garden is generous and south facing and throughout the redesigned house, new links to the garden are formed and new views of it framed. While busy Notting Hill is close by, the house and garden are designed together to promote a calmness and serenity.

A New Heart to the House

We are in a Conservation Area and, from the front, the changes to the house are quite subtle and yet profound. Internally, alterations are most significant on the lower floors where the original spaces were most compromised. A damp and melancholy lower ground floor is redesigned and extended as a bright and spacious kitchen and dining room – now the heart of the house - opening out on to a creamy limestone terrace. There is a gentleness to the stonework – it has a texture and pattern of warm colours and the copings and steps have been designed with soft edges.

At ground floor, the living room and study have been redesigned with tall glazed internal doors and a new terrace deck with pergola to grow trachelospermum jasminoides. A stair of folded bronze plates links the deck down to the garden; the structure is cantilevered from the back wall off the house and, with invisible fixings, appears to float in complete lightness. The first floor becomes a master suite of rooms with primary views of the garden and the top floor is redesigned as an enlarged guest space.

Softening the New

The base palette is pale timber, shades of stone colours and bronze metalwork. Expressing and amplifying the character of the house is often conveyed through details – the redecorated internal walls are first covered with lining paper to avoid the hardness of new commercial plastering.

As a London townhouse, a challenge has been to find storage space, make it work, make it work hard, and leave the rest of the house feeling calm and generous. The house and garden are due to be completed in summer 2020.

View this project in full here.