Award-winning architect Andy Martin, who has created spectacular interiors for some of London’s hottest restaurants including Barrafina, has turned the tricks of the trade on his own home, ‘The Ugly House’ in Kensal Rise
Words: Jacky Parker
Appearances can be deceptive and none more so than the modest exterior of award-winning architect Andy Martin’s Kensal Rise home, which he shares with his wife, Madeleine, sales director at Hauser Wirth Gallery and his three children Eero, Panama and Sonny. Step inside the 1920s property and you’re greeted with an unexpectedly open, contemporary space which seamlessly flows out to the garden with a pool and sauna.
‘I’m Australian, my wife is Norwegian and we both love the outdoors,’ says Martin. ‘In London in the winter you can end up spending your life indoors, so it was important for us to be able to go outside all year round. In the colder months we use the sauna and jump in the pool; it energises you and makes you feel alive.’
In London in the winter you can end up spending your life indoors, so it was important for us to be able to go outside all year round
As a prominent architect with a multi-disciplinary practice, Martin is used to transforming spaces from absolutely nothing to something special. He has created spectacular interiors for some of London’s hottest restaurants including all three Barrafinas and the recently opened Fucina in Marylebone, with its dramatic undulating brick ceiling.
Originally from Sydney, Martin came to London in 1989 to complete a scholarship at the Architectural Association. He later moved to Japan and then Paris where he met fellow Aussie and renowned designer, Marc Newson, and worked with him on Oliver Peyton’s famous 90s restaurant, Coast.
Martin opened his own practice, AMA (Andy Martin Architecture) in 1999 and followed up with attention-grabbing interiors for more of Peyton’s projects: Mash, Isola and The Admiralty. On the residential front, he has designed homes for hotelier, Olga Polizzi and Oasis frontman, Noel Gallagher.
Andy Martin has designed homes for hotelier, Olga Polizzi and Oasis frontman, Noel Gallagher
When it came to Martin’s own home it was the south-facing aspect and generous proportions that drew him. ‘We’d lived in Victorian properties in Notting Hill and Queens Park before but as the family grew we needed more space,’ he says.
‘What you lose in character you gain in size with these houses as they are a bit wider.’
With steps down to the garden, Martin immediately saw that he could take advantage of the slope of the land to dig down and increase the height and allow more light in.
Work started with the pool and a rear extension to open up the ground floor and lower it at the back. Making the house as eco as possible was a priority; so recycled black bricks from an architectural salvage yard were used for the floor, which flows from the kitchen and dining area out into the garden.
Huge floor-to-ceiling glass doors were installed to further connect the inside and outside. ‘It’s great in the summer,’ says Martin.
‘We can open up the doors and it becomes one big space. We wanted somewhere that felt a bit escapist, and where you can lie down and catch the sun.’
Along one side the walls are clad with reclaimed timber (once the property’s floorboards) now painted black to retain the heat. A wood burning stove complements this modern rustic effect. ‘Because it faces south, it gets really warm here,’ explains Martin. ‘We rarely need to put the heating on, only when it gets to zero.’
The industrial style stainless steel kitchen, with cool Sub Zero fridge, was crafted from second-hand units picked up from a commercial kitchen supplier and remodelled with doors, drawers and a marble worktop. ‘I see so much waste,’ says Martin. ‘Stainless steel lasts for 50-60 years, so I wanted to reuse materials and even appliances where possible.’
I see so much waste,’ says Martin. ‘Stainless steel lasts for 50-60 years, so I wanted to reuse materials and even appliances where possible
Another timber wall conceals ample floor-to-ceiling storage space. Clad in the same Douglas fir as the floor in the sitting area, it subtly links the different zones. ‘We wanted to have a sense of space throughout the house and not compartmentalise it,’ says Martin. ‘We can be in the sitting room but are still able to keep an eye on the kids.’
Wanting to add interest through materials, Martin opted for a backdrop of charcoal grey and matt black. ‘It works well with timber as dark neutrals accentuate the grain,’ he explains. ‘If you put a colour next to wood, it competes.’
The first floor houses three children’s bedrooms and the family bathroom. Dark grey floor tiles extend from the bathroom along the landing. ‘Some people might find tiles an odd choice,’ says Martin. ‘But it stretches the space and they are robust in a busy area circulated by three kids.’ A mirrored bath panel and opaque glass door allow light into what was previously a dark corridor.
The loft was converted and a dormer added to create a generous master bedroom and en-suite. Here the dark grey tiles are teamed with a resin floor covering and simple timber furnishings. ‘It keeps the materials moving through the house rather than stopping and starting, so it feels bigger,’ says Martin. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors separate the two rooms and are a must according to the architect.
‘I always recommend a minimum door height of 2.5 metres,’ he says. ‘In traditional properties the scale and proportion make sense but with contemporary architecture it doesn’t work as well. Entering a room is an event and small doors let it down.
As someone who knows all about creating ‘an event’ through architecture, Andy Martin has certainly achieved a relaxed and convivial one in his own home, and in the process given this ‘Ugly House’ its own fairy-tale ending.