HOUSE, LITTLE VENICE
Monday 19 Dec 2011

 

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Curiouser and curiouser

Victorian Romantic meets Martini Modern - a deliberate architectural schizophrenia links these two contrasting interior worlds

Between the neat regimented rows of grand stucco Victorian mansions that define this elegant part of London sits a sleek matt black zinc and glass contemporary building attached to a modest former coach house.This new residential building replaces a derelict warehouse that had once been a joinery workshop for an antique furniture company.

The brief called for a unique urban house that playfully acknowledges the industrial heritage of the site with bespoke fixtures and handmade finishes throughout. The sleeping quarters are set in a theatrical dark space with an Alice in Wonderland play on scale. Dramatic double height wall panelling, reclaimed parquet floors from the demolished warehouse and an oversized roaring fireplace are lit by a vast 1960s chandelier of cast yellow and white glass. There is a deliberate duality about the contrasting moods in the private and public areas of the house. A massive pivoting brick wall concealed in the engineering brickwork links these two worlds. Beyond this threshold point is a radically more modern space bathed in natural light from a hydraulic pivoting wall of glass and a vast louvred skylight above.

The furniture and fabric is an eclectic mix of old and new with a generally bleached palette of colours around the black brick fireplace. A specialist plaster finish is set against a textured finned ceramic wall which passes out as a continuous plane into the garden beyond. A number of items of furniture were built to commission. In place of slick hi-tech solutions, the structure and mechanics are overtly on show to evoke an industrial setting; steelwork is left rusted and raw; exposed engineered winches and cable mechanisms raise a bespoke metal and glass lantern and a TV screen. A slab of structural glass in the floor of the main living space hints at the underground library and screening room below, where a chestnut leather conversation pit is sunk into the polished concrete floor.

Wells Mackereth Architects