Mature art collection dictates private house design in Kings Langley, Hertfordshire
In October 2010, Stephen Davy Peter Smith Architects was commissioned by Peter and Melanie Domb to design a house of modern design, with minimal impact on the environment and the ability to accommodate their burgeoning art collection.
The brief was developed from a basic requirement for a 3-bedroom house with generous room sizes as the client was interested in space, not number of rooms. At 270 sq m, the property has a similar floor area to a typical 5-bed house.
The Dombs had a strong preference for a contemporary design. Despite being a modern building however, the house has a familiar feel. The pitched roof has traditional connotations and the black façade is reminiscent of the silhouettes of local barns and agricultural buildings, which are typically very dark in colour, appearing almost black on the horizon.
The interior is comprised of several flowing spaces which interlink and flow out to the external patio and garden from the kitchen and dining area. Internally, the rooms step down to each other in response to the sloping site. The building is very narrow and despite its black monolithic appearance, the large windows offer generous views out and views right through the building from outside.
The Dombs are well travelled and have a large collection of individual pieces of artwork to display. With no theme to connect them the house is designed to double as a gallery space, with bespoke places to display their treasures. This process was ongoing through the design process and the stair storage wall was redesigned to accommodate an Olympic torch during the project.
An abundance of natural light was paramount. Extensive areas of glazing, rooflights and a solar tube to the dressing area ensure the home is flooded with natural light. The entrance hall and living space are double height - right up to the underside of the roof, which accentuates the feeling of generous space and light.
The construction is a hybrid of block work, steel and traditional timber, including sustainable and energy efficient features. A new borehole provides all fresh water for the house, with soakaways for rainwater discharge, a heat recovery system and zoned underfloor heating.
The client was keen on materials with longevity and which are maintenance free. The black zinc cladding is both recyclable and has elements of recycled materials contained within it. The simple form was continued through into the crisp detailing of the zinc, with concealed gutters.
The dog is a hugely important member of the Domb family and some ‘doggy’ influences are manifest in the design, including low-level glazing which allows the dog to see out. Interestingly, he does use these features and goes from window to window to police the garden.