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Small Wonder: A Bright, Reconfigured Mews House in Hackney, Design Tricks Included

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Small Wonder: A Bright, Reconfigured Mews House in Hackney, Design Tricks Included

June 11, 2018

Recently on our radar: an efficient, reconfigured mews house in Hackney, London, for a family of four. Before architect Craig Hutchinson of Hutch Design started work, the two-story brick house on Dericote Street was cramped and—because it’s surrounded on three sides by other buildings—almost completely devoid of light. With the exception of a small side extension, Hutchinson was tasked with creating space and light within the existing footprint. Among the tricks up his sleeve: finding extra depth beneath the floors, using a few simple materials—plywood, concrete, and square white tile—throughout, swapping out almost all of the walls for half- and partial walls, adding flexible lighting, and, in one case, calling on inventive placement of a mirror. The result is a house that looks far more spacious than its footprint. Here’s a look.

Photography by Helen Cathcart.

After

Hutchinson started by re-jiggering the interiors of the small house: knocking down almost all of the interior walls in favor of half-walls, so that light could pass through. &#8
Above: Hutchinson started by re-jiggering the interiors of the small house: knocking down almost all of the interior walls in favor of half-walls, so that light could pass through. “It was a low-budget project,” Hutchinson says. “We focused most of the budget on the main structural and architectural moves—the side extension and knocking down some internal walls—and then finished and fitted the house out with low-cost materials.”

Now, the house is “comprised of three split-levels,” Hutchinson says. Shown here: the living room looking into second level: the only added room, a side space that can be used for either an office or a bedroom, with custom folding doors that can be open or closed. In the process, the team discovered that there was an empty space about three feet deep beneath the living room floor, taken up with structuring and sloping concrete. They removed this and lowered the floor, making the ceilings higher—and the making the room feel more spacious.

Up a small set of steps in the office/bedroom, shown here with the accordion doors open. Hutchinson added large timber windows fitted with frosted glass, for extra privacy for the young family. The floors throughout are white-stained oak.
Above: Up a small set of steps in the office/bedroom, shown here with the accordion doors open. Hutchinson added large timber windows fitted with frosted glass, for extra privacy for the young family. The floors throughout are white-stained oak.
Another trick to make rooms feel bigger: floor-to-ceiling curtains are installed on a track along the ceiling; hidden by a small recess.
Above: Another trick to make rooms feel bigger: floor-to-ceiling curtains are installed on a track along the ceiling; hidden by a small recess.

Hutchinson also designed all the lighting to be flexible: Rather than installed fixed pendant or ceiling lights, he opted for lights on cords, which can be draped and hung from various hooks in each space. This pendant is the Baby Nautilus by Amsterdam-based Blom & Blom. The chair is the 675 Chair by Robin Day.

In lieu of trying to squeeze a closet into the space, Hutchinson opted for another flexible, deconstructed solution: a custom clothes rack made of wood, leather straps, and nails, which can hold clothing when the room is used as a guest bedroom but is unobtrusive when it&#8
Above: In lieu of trying to squeeze a closet into the space, Hutchinson opted for another flexible, deconstructed solution: a custom clothes rack made of wood, leather straps, and nails, which can hold clothing when the room is used as a guest bedroom but is unobtrusive when it’s serving as an office.
Looking out toward the sunken living room. Note the small black box on the far wall: a flood lamp. &#8
Above: Looking out toward the sunken living room. Note the small black box on the far wall: a flood lamp. “They are tilted back and upwards to shine light unto the ceiling and reflect light down unto the space,” Hutchinson says. “This meant we could keep the ceilings clear of spotlights and maintain a more minimal aesthetic throughout.”

The view from the living room into the bedroom/office. The small-frame sofa is by Loaf; the light is a Grasshopper Floor Lamp.
Above: The view from the living room into the bedroom/office. The small-frame sofa is by Loaf; the light is a Grasshopper Floor Lamp.
Among the biggest changes to the space: moving the stairway into the center of the house, near the kitchen. Hutchinson also installed a wide skylight over the stair to bring a shaft of light into the darker back areas. Underneath the stair, the hot water heater and extra storage—&#8
Above: Among the biggest changes to the space: moving the stairway into the center of the house, near the kitchen. Hutchinson also installed a wide skylight over the stair to bring a shaft of light into the darker back areas. Underneath the stair, the hot water heater and extra storage—”important to the family home”—are hidden behind two flush cabinets. The ladder-back chairs are the J110 and the J77 chairs from Hay.

Up the stairs, with natural light coming from the skylight above. To the left is the kitchen.
Above: Up the stairs, with natural light coming from the skylight above. To the left is the kitchen.
&#8
Above: “There were some instances were we spent more money on materials when we felt it was worth it: the concrete tops and the handmade floor tiles in the kitchen, for example,” Hutchinson says.

The high/low efficient kitchen is divided into three separate workspaces: two concrete countertops (poured on site), and a birch plywood island that conceals the oven. (It’s narrowness and solid sides help the room to feel taller, not overcrowded.)  The shelves holding kitchen essentials and dry goods are also made of plywood, and the lower cabinets are low-fi, made of MDF. The handmade terracotta floor tiles are from Bert & May, nearby in Hackney.

To the right of the range, more hidden storage, plus a concealed fridge, freezer, microwave, and washing machine.
Above: To the right of the range, more hidden storage, plus a concealed fridge, freezer, microwave, and washing machine.
 A clever trompe l&#8
Above: A clever trompe l’oleil: Hutchinson fitted an expanse of mirror at the top of the tiled backsplash: It reflects the ceiling and makes the room seem bigger. The faucet is by Grohe; the undermount sinks are by GEC Anderson.
Up the stairs, looking back toward the kitchen.
Above: Up the stairs, looking back toward the kitchen.
Hutchinson chose to use the same handful of materials throughout, for simplicity&#8
Above: Hutchinson chose to use the same handful of materials throughout, for simplicity’s sake and to allow for a feeling of continuity throughout the small house. Case in point: The bathroom is tiled in the same square tiles that make up the backsplash in the kitchen, and plywood makes another appearance behind the sink.

Before

The dark kitchen, before. Photograph courtesy of Hutch Design.
Above: The dark kitchen, before. Photograph courtesy of Hutch Design.

More small remodels:

Product summary  

Robin Day

675 Chair

€259.96 EUR from Case Furniture Ltd.

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