By Lara Sargent, Houzz
From the outside, this home — part of a mixed-use, live-work development built in the late 1990s in London’s Hackney borough — looks nearly identical to its neighbors, but internally, it’s one of a kind.
“Our clients purchased this live-work unit in a shell condition as a two-story, open-plan property with a double-height ground floor,” says Ran Ankory of London-based Scenario Architecture, who was lead designer for the unusual project. “They wanted to convert it into a three-story property, with a two-bedroom flat for rent on the ground floor and a three-bedroom flat and outside space as their family home above.” They also wanted views from their living room of the yet-to-be-created garden. The clever redesign has not only given them just that, but has doubled the building’s original floor space.
Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here: A young couple and their 6-year-old daughter
Location: Hackney, northeast London
Size: The family home has three bedrooms and two bathrooms on the second and third floors. The ground floor has a two-bed apartment for rent.
Architect: Ran Ankory of Scenario Architecture
The solution for redesigning this blank canvas of a building into two separate residences — a family home above and an apartment below — was radical but effective: The original space was extended upward and reconfigured to create a spacious layout to suit the owners’ lifestyle.
Planning permission had already been granted to add an extra floor and a roof terrace, so a full ceiling was added between the first and second floors (previously, a mezzanine spanned half the space), and the roof was raised to create more room for a third floor, with the terrace above.
The owners needed to maintain the live-work aspect of the space, as they both often work from home. As such, the top-floor, open-plan living zone includes a large study as well as a kitchen and living room.
The light-filled, flowing space is clean-lined and contemporary, with pure white walls and ceilings and a seamless floor in high-quality vinyl — a lighter, more practical option than polished concrete, which the owners also considered.
The top floor “is the heart of the new family house and where the clients expected to spend most of their time,” architect Ran Ankory says.
Sofa: Softline; Secto pendant light: Twentytwentyone
One key element the owners wanted was a direct view into the garden from the main living spaces. “This initially seemed impossible in the context of a [second-and-third-floor] flat without a garden,” Ankory says. “From the outset, however, the scheme was meant to include a large roof terrace and, with this in mind, the first architectural action we carried out in the 3-D model of the proposed new shell was to cut three slots through the roof terrace and pull down a segment of it into the … living space.”
The result is a sunken terrace, visible at the top of this image, with glass sides, which allows the owners to keep an eye on their children playing outside and catch glimpses of greenery and sky.
The clever use of space and design included discreet built-in storage, such as the slim, low units under the windows, and extra seating areas wherever possible — a real boon in this busy home.
“As the scheme begins to emerge, there are always wall and floor surfaces that can stretch further to facilitate seating, as well as leftover spaces that can easily be utilized for storage,” Ankory says.
Storage trunks: salvaged book boxes from the Senate House Library in London
“A welcome ‘side effect’ of the sunken terrace is the daylight that floods into the living space and down to the level below via the central staircase,” Ankory says.
The top floor offers real flexibility thanks to floor-to-ceiling sliding doors, which can be used to screen off the main area when necessary.
“The flexibility to move from a completely open space to a fully or semi-divided space allows different types of leisure and work activities to be accommodated on this floor,” Ankory says. “One of the clients works in the arts and can have rehearsals in the large space or hold quiet meetings or study with the doors shut.”
“Most of the time, however, the entire space is left open, allowing circulation and flow of daylight throughout the central staircase, which acts as a subtle separation between the areas arranged around it,” Ankory says.
The curvaceous staircase is built from timber studs and clad in drywall with a plaster finish.
The clean-lined kitchen’s wood finishes add warmth to the space. “The clients wanted a simple and functional but beautiful kitchen and didn’t want to spend a large portion of the budget on it,” Ankory says. “To achieve this, a very simple, off-the-shelf product was used for the carcasses and enhanced with a polished concrete countertop and olive ash veneer over a birch ply core for the fronts.”
The stairs to the roof terrace run along the kitchen wall, with part of the kitchen underneath. “This helped to define the kitchen as a separate space within the open-plan area and also minimize loss of floor space at the roof terrace level,” Ankory says.
Dining table: Unto This Last; Eames-style chairs: swiveluk.com
Larger windows were installed on the top floor, allowing as much natural light as possible to come in. The frames are unfinished pine on the inside, more durable aluminum on the outside.
“The central staircase is a key feature in the scheme, as it serves more than one purpose,” Ankory says. “As the bedrooms and bathrooms are located on the entrance level, it was crucial to create an intuitive and inviting flow from the entrance up to the more public areas above. And in the upper floor, the staircase divides and defines the otherwise open-plan space.”
Every area has been maxed out with extra storage and seating.
The white, stripped-back bedroom on the lower level of the main residence echoes the laid-back, cool ambience of the rest of the apartment. The architects designed the custom closets, which were built by a woodworker hired by the clients.
Lampshade: Habitat; bedding: Ikea
The all-white bathroom is neat, chic and supremely functional.
Toilet and sink: Duravit; tiles: Porcelanosa
A box-like extension had to be built on the roof terrace to accommodate the stairs leading up to the outside space. It’s clad in Western red cedar laid horizontally.
Patio furniture: John Lewis
The ingenious sunken section of the terrace offers a hidden area and a degree of privacy from neighboring homes.