How MW Architects sensitively stripped back this period property in Hampstead – once home to 20th century musician Cecil Sharp – to reveal a flowing, contemporary space with period detailing and oodles of natural light
Words: Rachel Mantock
Clad in white marble with delicate grey veins, oak and concrete floors with a vast expanse of light pouring in from all angles, founder of MW Architects, Matthew Wood, and his team have created a north London home with an artisan touch. With the main aim of creating fluidity throughout the property while maximising the amount of natural light, the design team stripped the property back to its core, retained the original features built a contemporary, chalky white aesthetic around them.
‘Whatever features the house had that were feasibly retainable, we kept, like the ornate door surrounds and windows towards the front of the house,’ says Wood.
The ground floor extension is the epitome of modern elegance, with soft grey concrete flooring that spills out and continues into the garden, complete with huge, aluminium sliding doors. Added touches such as the arty lighting and the clever spatial design that allows a flood of natural light to bathe all four walls give it the wow factor.
MW Architects took a more simplistic approach upstairs, allowing ‘the original proportions of each room to speak for themselves’.
‘The entire house now has this very crisp, modern and refined way about it,’ says Wood. ‘The standout piece is definitely the huge, masterful winding staircase we put in the middle. It’s the ultimate wow, just an impressive structure in itself that has made a huge difference to the entire layout of the house.’
The original staircase was in the exact same space, but was dominating in an ugly way, taking up too much space and blocking out masses of natural light. Replacing it with a circular staircase freed up the sides of the walls, creating space for light to fill the house.
The flow of the house is important. If you always have to double back when walking through a house to get to certain rooms, it breaks up the space. Everything feels much more fluid with a complete circulation of walkways, which all stem from the staircase structure
‘The flow of the house is important,’ says Wood. ‘If you always have to double back when walking through a house to get to certain rooms, it breaks up the space. We designed this home to flow in an almost cyclical way. Everything feels much more fluid with a complete circulation of walkways, which all stem from the staircase structure.’
Although MW Architects took care of the entire project, including design planning, contract management and the interiors, the client had a lead role in choosing the touches that would really make this property a feel homely.
‘The client likes Asian influences and enjoys going off to places like Thailand and coming back with ornate Buddhas and symbolic sculptures,’ says Wood. ‘So, there are quite a few of those pieces dotted around the house. She also has quite a lot of art, which was why she was so keen to have plain walls. She wanted the art to be able to move from wall to wall and to stand out.’
With the added art value of distinctive sculpture and one-off art pieces, this property is more than just an impressive contemporary home – it has the Zen factor. The client and her family didn’t want their much loved artwork to have to compete with loud décor. The matching of finishes – such as stained ash joinery – on every floor, including the roof terrace, means that each room is harmonious with the others.
‘Lots of things can happen at once in this house, either completely separately or all in conjunction with each other,’ says Wood. ‘We wanted to build in that choice. It’s all about those different family interfaces.’