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A London Townhouse Designed to Catch the Light

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A London Townhouse Designed to Catch the Light

March 3, 2017

Asked by a couple with a baby and a toddler to renovate their two-floor “maisonette” in a London Victorian, architect Larissa Johnston responded by turning the place upside down: The bedrooms, formerly sequestered on the ground floor, were moved up a flight. Meanwhile, the kitchen and living room got transplanted on the garden level, where they could be linked to the previously hard-to-access courtyard. The aim, she says, was to “create a spacious, light, and modern family home.” And that required Johnston to not only shift the floor plan but also to rethink just about every existing detail. Come see her light and airy results.

Photography by Rory Gardiner, styling by Emma Lynne Archer, courtesy of Larissa Johnston Architects.

The family occupies the first two floors of a terrace house in Islington that had over the years lost most of its period detailing, but &#8
Above: The family occupies the first two floors of a terrace house in Islington that had over the years lost most of its period detailing, but “felt dark and enclosed” (scroll down for Before shots). Their main entrance, now on the garden level, opens to a bright living room furnished with vintage pieces. The new floor is polished concrete.
Johnston&#8
Above: Johnston’s big move was to take out all of the existing internal walls and create an open-plan living floor with an extension at the far end that connects the room to the garden. A new supporting steel structure is concealed within the walls and floor to create a simple, uninterrupted space, she explains.

Within the open space, Johnston introduced a “carefully crafted linear plywood box,” ingeniously fitted to contain the kitchen and the stairs, as well as a series of shelves and storage units.

The clean-lined kitchen is birch plywood finished with a water-based acrylic varnish. The stove is a Smeg and a full-size fridge is located to the right of it.
Above: The clean-lined kitchen is birch plywood finished with a water-based acrylic varnish. The stove is a Smeg and a full-size fridge is located to the right of it.
A Caple Cubit 0 stainless steel sink with drainer is set within the slim stainless steel counter. The faucet is Franke&#8
Above: A Caple Cubit 100 stainless steel sink with drainer is set within the slim stainless steel counter. The faucet is Franke’s Irena 3-in-1 Tap Minerva, which provides hot, cold, and boiling water.
A large skylight floods the main room with natural light. Hans Wegner Wishbone Chairs surround an Ikea dining table. (For something similar, consider painting Ikea&#8
Above: A large skylight floods the main room with natural light. Hans Wegner Wishbone Chairs surround an Ikea dining table. (For something similar, consider painting Ikea’s birch Norden table.) The hanging light is Heal’s Bristol Pendant Light in a walnut finish.

Johnston deftly introduced a second box of sorts, an addition at the back of the room: &#8
Above: Johnston deftly introduced a second box of sorts, an addition at the back of the room: “The rear external wall at the lower level was completely removed, allowing the extension—which added 13 square meters [approximately 14o square feet]—to be seamlessly integrated into the main space,” she says. The house is now a total of 101 square meters (1,087 square feet).
 The sliding glass window wall is the full height and width of the of the kitchen. The birch ply door in the back of the room leads to a utility area and powder room tucked under the stairs.

The stairs are lined with shelving and lead to a study area on a half landing
Above: The stairs are lined with shelving and lead to a study area on a half landing
The shelving elegantly wraps around the stairs and the plywood seams are left exposed.
Above: The shelving elegantly wraps around the stairs and the plywood seams are left exposed.
The study, which has its own integrated shelving, replaced an enclosed storage area. The window brings natural light into the stairwell.
Above: The study, which has its own integrated shelving, replaced an enclosed storage area. The window brings natural light into the stairwell.
A partition of double-width plywood serves as the stair rail. The upper level has dark wood floors.
Above: A partition of double-width plywood serves as the stair rail. The upper level has dark wood floors.
The master bedroom is airy and minimalist. The wall radiators throughout are the Hudevad P5 from Denmark.
Above: The master bedroom is airy and minimalist. The wall radiators throughout are the Hudevad P5 from Denmark.
In the family bath, Johnston offset white tiles with a stone floor (Fired Earth&#8
Above: In the family bath, Johnston offset white tiles with a stone floor (Fired Earth’s Museum tiles) and wood backsplash stained to harmonize with the floor. The square sink is the Matteo Washbasin from Saneux. The pendant lights are Muuto’s E27 available in 13 colors.
Ikea&#8
Above: Ikea’s PS Maskros pendant light hangs in the kids’ room and casts dandelion-like shadows when lit; $89.99. The wide-plank flooring came from Ted Todd’s Signature Solids Collection.
The maisonette (with red door) is part of a terrace house, a historic brick row building with what Johnston describes as a &#8
Above: The maisonette (with red door) is part of a terrace house, a historic brick row building with what Johnston describes as a “white rendered base” that she matched in the extension.
The new ground floor setup introduces space, natural light, and a link to the garden. The upstairs bedrooms benefit from the second floor&#8
Above: The new ground floor setup introduces space, natural light, and a link to the garden. The upstairs bedrooms benefit from the second floor’s tall ceilings.

Before

Pre-remodel, there was a narrow hall and rebuilt stair.
Above: Pre-remodel, there was a narrow hall and rebuilt stair.
The kitchen had been fully replaced in recent decades.
Above: The kitchen had been fully replaced in recent decades.
The bathroom was straight out of a Big Box building supply store.
Above: The bathroom was straight out of a Big Box building supply store.

Take a look at three more clean-lined remodels of historic structures:

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