Hugh Strange and Adriana Ferlauto have built their exciting new timber frame home on a tiny urban site.

This house was designed for city living, and in many ways the wall which surrounds it acts as a protective buffer between us and the outside world,” explains Hugh of his family’s unusual home.

As a London-based architect Hugh was already accomplished at maximising space for clients — a talent which was to prove invaluable for his own 75m² project.

The Project

  • Name: Hugh Strange and Andrea Ferlauto
  • Build cost: £170,000 (£2,267/m²)
  • Build time: 7 months
  • Location: London

He and his wife, Adriana, were living in a ground floor flat in Deptford, south east London, which backed onto a derelict car park surrounded by an old brick wall. The space had previously belonged to a pub but had become redundant when this was converted into flats. No planning permission existed for the land, which was hemmed in on all sides and invisible from the road. “I immediately spotted the potential and realised that this would make an unconventional plot where we could build a new house, but it took a great deal of negotiating before we finally managed to buy the yard in 2006,” Hugh recalls.

Determined to make an asset of the enclosed nature of the site, Hugh spent long hours tweaking and refining the design, producing a number of models and tracking the sun to demonstrate how the unconventional building would work. A series of windows and glazed doors have been positioned to optimise light and prevent the interior from feeling in any way claustrophobic, despite the fact that rooms have no real views beyond the high perimeter wall.

“This was the first time we’d built for ourselves and we considered every possible option,” Hugh explains. “I knew that designing a single storey building would reduce potential planning issues such as overlooking, and by hiding the house behind the wall we’ve eliminated possible concerns from neighbours about how the house looks externally.”

This tactic worked perfectly and gaining planning permission for the scrap of land proved relatively simple. The new house occupies around 70% of the overall plot, with a narrow L-shaped strip of external terrace between this and the existing boundary wall on two sides. “Creating the impression that the wall is actually an extension of the house – and forms the edge of the living space – was key to the overall design,” explains Hugh.

Large expanses of glass in the open plan living/dining/kitchen space overlook the wall and ensure the house feels far larger than it really is, with two bedrooms and a bathroom positioned to the north side of the building where glazing is minimal.

Hugh’s rigorous pre-planning paid off and ensured that the build ran incredibly smoothly — primarily due to the prefabricated nature of the structure, which meant that the majority of issues were resolved even before work began on site. Highly insulated timber panels were craned into position on a concrete raft foundation and clad externally with panels of grey corrugated fibre cement, which gives the house a textured, industrial feel.

With a relatively tight build budget of £160,000 Hugh and Adriana shopped carefully for items which would create the greatest impact. Furniture is minimal and much of it was made from hardwood to Hugh’s own designs. The result is simple and cohesive: polished concrete floors (the couple’s biggest extravagance) and whitewashed timber walls act as a backdrop to the rich tones of the hardwood joinery in the light-filled rooms.

“It’s a very open, airy home and we never feel that looking out onto walls is a problem — in fact we’re rather grateful to them for protecting us from the noise and bustle of the road outside,” says Adriana. “They’re quite beautiful in their own way and create a quiet little oasis in the heart of the city.”

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