St John's Wood | SHH Architects

London / United Kingdom / 2014

27 Love 3,232 Visits Published

The existing property was a Grade-II listed villa in a conservation area in St John’s Wood, north London. The purchasers (SHH’s clients) owned the neighbouring semi-detached villa and were interested in purchasing the adjoining property. They came to SHH for advice and we advised to go ahead with the purchase, seeing the property’s great potential to work as a remodelled family home (even though at that point it was in a run-down state and needed major conversion works, after having being carved up into apartments back in the 1930s).

Unlike the other houses in the street, which are are designed as paired villas with a mirrored layout, created around the turn of the last century, this pair dates from the 1840s and was designed with a rotated L-shaped layout that is identical in plan form – ie the houses are joined on the longest side and whilst one has a dog-leg elevation to the front (the client’s existing house), the other has it to the rear (the new house). One complication was that when the property had been converted into apartments – and prior to it being listed - a new entrance had been created, making the building out of sync with the other properties in the street.

SHH began a long planning process with Westminster Council to reinstate the two apartments as a single home – with an additional two-storey contemporary extension to the rear and a reinstatement of the original main entrance. Planning became a major battle lasting 18 months, with a lot of focus on the changed entrance, even though the design sought to bring the property back in line with the original design and the rest of the street and was very much supported by other local householders – but permission was granted in the end.

Additionally, at the bottom of the garden there was an adjoining cottage property. A developer had purchased the property previously and started work on it without getting the necessary consents (although the building was not listed, it was still in a conservation area). Building works had been halted and the site left in a poor state of repair. SHH recommended that our clients purchase the property in order to increase their space-planning possibilities. A second round of planning went in for the conversion of the cottage, which also got consent, but much more smoothly this time!

External works:

All gardens and landscaping on the project were re-done by Chelsea gold medallist garden designer and frequent SHH collaborator Kate Gould.

New off-street parking was created at the front (where previously there was only a gate).
The front façade was re-rendered with banded ashlar lines and the approach stairs to the re-located front door were reinstated along with the existing to metal and glass fan canopy, a unique feature on the street.

SHH maintained the existing boundary wall of the property to the left, but added new timber-panelled sections to sit at the top of the wall for increased privacy. New Portland stone external terracing was also added with a new side access point.

To the rear externally, a new terrace was put in, in front of the new double-height contemporary extension.


The contemporary two-storey rear extension, which is at lower ground and ground floor levels, is made up of a glazed curtain wall system facing the rear garden, which consists of four sliding panels at garden level, with super-slim black aluminium framing for maximum transparency, as well as a horizontal glass band between the storeys. The side of the extension is a continuation of the outer side wall of the house, but features an integrated linear ribbon window, which was inserted between the extension and the original rear line of the property and which runs continuously up the side of two storey extension and across the roof, acting as a visual separation between the old and the new and bringing a wonderful extra source of natural light into the property.

The reconfigured house sits across four-storeys with a lower-ground level and ground, first and second floors. The lower-ground floor has also been extended at the front below the parking area to house a new basement utility room.

Space-planning and Interior Design

Ground Floor:

Visitors arrive at the house via an external stair to the left of the front façade and enter into the vestibule on the raised ground floor. The eye is immediately taken by a striking bespoke timber wall opposite (in dark-stained oak and rosewood, bespoke-designed by SHH), with a first glimpse too via a floor-to-ceiling glass panel through to the glazed rear extension and garden beyond. The flooring is in engineered planks of Notting Hill oak (used throughout the ground floor), whilst a dark-timber credenza, matching the joinery wall opposite, sits to the right of the hall space. The house has very rich details throughout as SHH’s client (who is also an architect) used to work in California and was inspired by the region’s autumnal palette of redwood trees and warm colours.

SHH’s clients were also passionate about art and the house features pieces from the couple’s art collection throughout, starting with a glass sculpture opposite the entrance door. A Murano chandelier (chosen by the client) in the entrance area is the first of several prominent feature light fittings on this floor.

‘The interior design scheme was very much a mix of the client’s existing furniture and artworks, together with new items chosen closely with the client to complement these pieces’, explained Ana Coates of SHH, Interior Designer on the scheme. ‘A lot of research and materials sourcing was done to create a varied palette of fabrics and finishes with a variety of timber used repeatedly as unifying finish throughout the scheme and bespoke joinery items to ensure a perfect fit with the space.’

At the end of the hall, stairs lead to the lower and upper floors, whilst the main living and reception spaces lead off to the right and left via generously-proportioned double-door entrances. To the right is the family living room, which features two street-facing windows with Juliet balconies (one of which replaces the previous 1930s front entrance). An existing but re-located fireplace to the left features bespoke units in macassar ebony with dark brown John Boyd horsehair fabric panels (designed by SHH and fabricated by Archer & Smith) to either side, whilst, on the opposite wall, a fitted joinery unit in dark-stained oak (also by SHH) houses a television, with the same horsehair panelling used for a series of cupboards below. A sophisticated rug by Wool Classics covers most of the floor, in beige wool with a black linen border. The re-upholstered and new furniture (and vintage jukebox) are all the client’s own. Two striking Spanish light fittings (the Spiro pendant by lzf) complete the interior treatment.

Directly opposite the family living space, to the left of the entrance vestibule, is the drawing room, which faces out onto the rear of the property. This spacious and elegant room in a range of soft browns and fawns features two large sofas, a rug, a low table, a salvaged antique Regency panelled ‘Bullseye’ fireplace from Browns Fireplaces, paintings and a sculpture from the clients’ own collection, plus a Bocci 28.19 coloured ball chandelier, which completes the striking light fittings on this floor.

The whole of this floor is particularly light and airy, with the drawing room benefitting not only from a rear-facing window, but a huge open doorway (with double doors pinned back on the far side, which can close the space off if required when entertaining) into the adjoining library and music room, which forms part of the upper tier of the rear extension. Light also comes through from the glazed upper wall of the extension and from the ribbon window wrapping around the extension, but secret shutters can also close off this ribbon window if privacy is needed in the library room.

The folding doors in the library/music room and the walls are in elegant greys and taupe, with the darker palette possible because of the amount of light in the room, with a library system (bespoke-designed by SHH) in dark-stained oak and rosewood. The contrasting palette between the two adjoining rooms was also chosen to create a distinction between the period-style drawing room and the more contemporary library space, although the two treatments also sit easily alongside one another. A bespoke fireplace from Geoflame is set into a wall panel in the library space, featuring a specialist gun metal bronze textured finish by Seamless Industries, which is also used once in the lower ground floor kitchen space.

Lower-ground Floor:

On the lower-ground floor to the rear, sitting within both the existing house space and the new extension is the large kitchen and informal dining room space, with the fully-glazed, garden-facing wall of the extension able to slide fully open in good weather.

The space features honed stone flooring – in 600mm square limestone tiles – to match the outside terrace (which has a brushed finish), blurring the inside/outside boundaries further when the glass wall is full open, with an almost flush finish.

The result is a clean and bright space with stronger tones added by further inset joinery designed by SHH in dark-stained oak with coloured felt panels, with spaces for display and an inset wall space for photos, with a joinery unit set below that also functions as a place to read or work. Echoing the room above, a bespoke Geoflame fireplace is set within a white-gold textured wall panel by Seamless Industries. A bespoke natural oak dining table sits at the centre of the space with a Louis Poulsen pendant light above.

The kitchen sits at the other end of the extensive double room, featuring bought-in units with specialist joinery veneered fronts in walnut for the lower units, white upper units and Angolan black granite for the worktops. A row of Damasco amber spun glass pendant lights sits over the extensive island unit in the centre, with four high bar chairs at the far side, meaning this area can also be used for informal dining. Bespoke floor-to-ceiling units at the far end of the kitchen area are once more in dark-stained timber veneer.

To the front of the house on the lower-ground floor is the rich and dark formal dining room, which has very much been created for evening entertaining. A formal table and chairs, with a row of Unika glass pendants on a bespoke canopy above, sits on a Fort Street Studio ‘Chess’ rug with red chequered squares (which the client already owned), with the red also picked up in the artwork in the room. The chequered fabric is mirrored in the gold chequered curtains which cut off views from the front of the house when privacy is needed.

SHH created a bespoke walnut credenza with a slate top (made by Christopher Clarke) for this room, which sits easily alongside cupboards purchased by the clients when they lived in Asia. A large fireplace is in salvaged black marble (from Browns Fireplaces) and dates from the same period as the house. The room’s flamboyance is also underscored by a full-length feature wall, bespoke-designed by the client and detailed by SHH, which is made of grain-end timber squares (in dark-satined solid hardwood) of varying depths, with occasional inset squares in antiqued bronze glass that can house and enhance tea-lights for added atmosphere. The wall also contains a secret door with access into the extensive chilled wine store. The feature wall continues with access to a guest WC, which also features a rich bronze tile finish to the floors and walls and a flame stone vanity unit. The other dining room walls are cross-lined in a saray silk wall covering from Vescom.

Also on this floor, accessed separately via a narrow stair, with inset LED lighting zig-zagging down at both the top and bottom of the right hand wall, is the new utility space created beneath the front outside parking area.

First Floor:

On the first floor are the three bedrooms for the couple’s daughters, featuring bespoke joinery, reclaimed fireplaces and bespoke embroidered wallpaper commissioned from upcoming textiles star Clare Coles in each room.

One of the two bathrooms on this floor features colour-backed glass sections in green and magenta on white tiles, plus a thick resin vanity unit.

A guest shower room features a photograph taken by the client’s father of Aspen trees, backed onto glass and integrated into one wall, afforded extra light by a rooflight above.

Also on this floor is an office space, which has a bespoke, hand-woven felt floor, designed and sourced by SHH (by Perrine Rousseau); a specialist concrete finish to the walls, dark timber veneer fittings and suspended pendant orb light fittings by Bocci.

Second Floor:

The master bedroom suite is located on the second floor and includes the master bedroom and dressing room, which has a leather floor. The dark and moody bedroom has a specialist painted ceiling with a coffer below the pitch of the listed roof, fitted joinery and a Geoflame fireplace, with bespoke horsehair panels used once more for the inbuilt storage.

The master bathroom features another specialist glass panel for the shower unit, featuring seed pods from the ‘honesty’ plant, pressed between layers of specialist laminate by 3Form – and a private, glass-bordered terrace looking out over the extension to the garden.

‘We worked closely with our highly architecturally-articulate clients at all times to create this project’, commented SHH’s Ana Coates. ‘The result is a home filled with bespoke items and very personal details and features. Every element has been carefully thought-out to respond to our clients’ wishes.’

The Garden Cottage:

The former neighbouring cottage, which now faces the house at the bottom of the garden, was re-built almost from scratch with French doors and new windows to tie in with the renovated elevation. The façade along the passageway was re-rendered to bring it back in line with historic photos.

A lot of work was needed to make the cottage habitable after it had been stripped down to a steel shell frame. SHH also tried to replicate scroll mouldings and reinstated the cottage’s original stone plaque.

The building now forms a two-storey, one-bed studio cottage for use of guests and the clients with its own office, kitchenette and bathroom on the ground floor and gym/exercise spaces plus guest bedroom on the upper storey.

The interior feel is light, airy and contemporary, with a Scandinavian feel and is dominated by a stunning feature timber spiral stair in layers of plywood (designed by SHH in close consultation with the client and manufactured by Tintab), which is set in front of a renovated exposed brickwork wall and juxtaposed with a Portuguese limestone fireplace at the base of the stair, created by Browns to the client’s specification. Vibia Slim pendant lights sit above the staircase.
All the cottage’s existing oak beam trusses have been exposed and three rooflights provide an abundance of light throughout. A light wood floor and exposed 2-storey brick wall complete the interior surfaces.

The gym/exercise space has a mirrored wall and balance bars and the guest bedroom and bathroom are very contemporary with the latter featuring striking black taps and fittings.

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    The existing property was a Grade-II listed villa in a conservation area in St John’s Wood, north London. The purchasers (SHH’s clients) owned the neighbouring semi-detached villa and were interested in purchasing the adjoining property. They came to SHH for advice and we advised to go ahead with the purchase, seeing the property’s great potential to work as a remodelled family home (even though at that point it was in a run-down state and needed major conversion works, after...

    Project details
    • Year 2014
    • Work finished in 2014
    • Status Completed works
    • Type Single-family residence / Interior Design / Building Recovery and Renewal
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