Dan and Jocelyn Ahmad have, with a bit of help from Coffey Architects, solved all the problems with their charming Victorian home in one go.
Dan and Jocelyn Ahmad spent three years with their house as it was. A charming Victorian detached property at the end of a row of terraces in a leafy part of North London, at first it’s difficult to see what the main motivation was behind the comprehensive renovation and extension project, steered by one of the UK’s up-and-coming architectural talents, Phil Coffey.
- Name: Dan and Jocelyn Ahmad
- Build Cost: £280,000
- Build time: 1 year 1 month
- Region: Greater London
“Our brief to Phil was fairly straightforward,” explains Dan, a solicitor. “We wanted to create a better sense of space in the house, and to make it a family home better suited to modern living. We felt that the existing house didn’t really make the most of the relatively large (for this part of London) plot and we also didn’t want anything that would try to copy the original.”
Positioned head on to the row of terraces, the house’s side elevation was facing the road and, owing to its position on the site, it had a large front garden. Previous owners had decided that, because this was unusable on account of privacy, it would be wise to split the garden in two with fencing, meaning part of the garden could only be accessed from the rear conservatory, itself a well-intentioned but unlovely addition.
“In a nutshell, the house as we bought it was from the outside a charming old Victorian villa (and still is) but internally was a Frankenstein’s monster of compromises, alterations and additions” says Dan. “We felt that we could turn what was a jumble of rooms into a spectacular family house with the help of a good architect.”
Phil, one of several architects interviewed for the job – who shone out “because he used his brain, coming up with a bespoke approach rather than thinking about work previously done,” according to Dan – tackled this orientation issue as the driving force behind the scheme. So, in short, a new small extension to the former side has created a new entrance space, which leads to a reconfigured kitchen area which, with not inconsiderable drama, opens up into a huge 3m-high flat-roof extension, complete with recessed light voids, high-level glazing overlooking local parkland and, of course, huge practically frameless sliding glass doors. The extension has a seamless relationship with the new private garden.
Internally, the house has been reconfigured around a dramatic new triple-height steel staircase, clad in birch plywood panels, which signals much greater use of the rejigged first and second floor. The crowning glory of the stairwell is a huge fixed skylight that provides bags of light and fine views in itself. Throughout, original features (not least some charming cornice and ceiling roses) have been restored and provide a clever contrast with the extension.
The resulting home is something that exceeds its early ambition. “The end result is all the more satisfying to us as not only does it look beautiful, clean and simple but it’s also practical — we achieved both goals,” explains Dan.
So this is a project that is not what it first appears. The stunning modern extension is undoubtedly the creation that draws the attention; but it is in fact the reconfiguration of the layout, and the radical reorientation of the entrance, that provides the art. And that is why a good architect is worth their weight in gold.
Click here to view architect Phil Coffey’s own renovated home.