East London House
Wednesday 18 May 2016
East London House is the principal house of a square in East London. Constructed in 1834 for Lord Tredegar, an Admiral of the British navy, the house is now Grade II Listed. When purchased, the accumulation of multiple alterations over time had changed what was once a grand London home into a jumble of dark, disconnected rooms with a poor relationship to its garden.
Mikhail Riches’ brief from the new owners was to re-establish the elegance of the original house, maximising natural light and harnessing the potential of the basement and garden. The house had to work as a home for an extended family: the clients have two children, and grandparents and other family members often stay.
Wherever possible Mikhail Riches sought to reinstate the original plan of the house. After research into the history of the building, recent additions such as a spiral staircase and conservatory were identified and removed. A contemporary extension of steel and white oiled Siberian Larch was added to the rear of the house to create new living spaces that reinforce the building’s relationship to the newly landscaped garden.
One of the principal design challenges was to stitch new and old into a complimentary set of rooms and to imbue the new interventions with a grain and texture that coexists happily alongside the original.
Mikhail Riches has made the fully restored stair hall a prelude to a new architectural journey through the house, down and into the garden. Upon entering the house the grand staircase is now presented in its original sweeping form. Moving forward either side of the stair, a visitor passes through the rear wall of the main house into a newly built extension, housing a naturally lit, double-height library with views across the garden. The engineering required to achieve an extremely thin library floor was challenging, and Mikhail Riches worked collaboratively with structural engineers Heyne Tillett Steel to achieve a visually light solution. A bronze and larch staircase leads down from the library to an open plan kitchen and dining area – the new heart of the home.
Mikhail Riches also designed the garden, with planting by Jane Brockbank, and the landscaping makes use of the same white brick and light-grey lime mortar used in the interior walls of the basement and extension. This commonality of materials, broken only by the glazing and lightweight timber and steel structure of the extension, creates a powerful connection between the indoor and outdoor spaces, encouraging activity to spill from one into the other.
The basement and garden were excavated to a new lower level. Gentle terracing of the garden subtly overcomes any sense of being underground. Two distinct spaces make up the garden; a walled area with water features and raised beds adjacent to the house, and beyond it, a rougher area for play and garden storage.
Location: East London
Photography: Tim Crocker