Architects Variant Office were invited to refurbish and extend a modest end of terrace house in the heart of Dulwich. The client was underwhelmed with the house in the state that it was and tasked Variant to change this view. Variant worked alongside main contractors TAD Builders to provide the client with a home that was suitable for modern living.
Work in the house was quite extensive with the team gutting out the entire building, leaving only its shell, roof and external walls. The house was then rebuilt with an extension at the rear. The traditional Victorian house was transformed by inserting a modern open treaded stair that allows the light to penetrate deep into the house. Bold use of colour and materials creates different atmospheres throughout the house with Variant imagining the interior of the house being a single space, subdivided by a large piece of joinery to create more intimate spaces to live, cook, eat and work.
As the site footprint was small, Variant wanted to maximise the sense of space by connecting the rear extension with the garden by way of corner glazed extension. Perforated brick screens help screen the interior from neighbouring properties.
Premier Construction magazine spoke to Variant Director Ashvin de Vos about the project.
How did you get involved with this project?
“This was a new client for us and it came through a referral. I have worked with the client’s son a few times so it was a referral through that connection.”
What was the brief given to you by the client?
“The client had just bought the house and really did not like it. Her one line brief was ‘make me fall in love with my home again.’ The street is quite a grand with some really big mansions but this is a cottage style house which felt small and pokey in comparison. The client wanted a sense of scale with a connection across the whole house that was quite grand.”
What were the timescales of this project?
“We started in January 2017 and finished in May 2018.”
What was the client’s reaction when you finished? Does she now love her home?
“She absolutely loves it. She enjoys it because it is very different.”
What are some of the design highlights that are now in the house?
“We changed the house by redesigning the stairs. We took out the old Victorian, pokey stairs and created a much more open stairway. This made a big difference to how spacious the house feels. “The big highlight in the rear extension is the pivot door, which is 2.7m high by 3.5m wide and that was the absolute limit that Dask Timber could supply. I think it really pushed them but they did a great job.
“The brick work is also another nice feature because in the summer evenings the western sun comes through the brick screens and dapples on the back wall.”
Where there any difficulties or challenges with the project?
“I think budget was a big challenge. We spent a lot of time in the design phase really rationalising details so that they became cheaper. The ambition for the project was far greater than the budget so there are details that look very grand but are actually quite simple, which allowed the contractor to get things made quickly and cost effectively.”
Since completion, the project has been shortlisted for a number of awards. How does it feel to receive that recognition?
“It has been great. The Brick Awards were particularly good for us because this was one of the smallest projects on the shortlist. It is also testament to the client who was willing to trust us by going along with our radical proposal, even if it was slightly outside of her comfort zone.”
How important has this project been for you to be involved with?
“This project was fun because we were able to push some of our ideas further. But for us every project is important because every project and every client, be it domestic, developer or community, represents a different set of opportunities. As a result, every one of our projects is different because they all are a result of a unique collaboration with our clients and we really enjoy that.”