Want a bigger interior without extending outside your property? Islington architect Siri Zanelli has the answer

Us Brits can’t get enough of Scandinavia right now. Most of the best TV comes from our near neighbours, but before that it was the impact on our homes through the likes of Ikea that revolutionised how we lived. For those who prefer a more personal touch, we are still looking for inspiration eastwards. ‘In a way it seems natural because so many things about Scandinavian design is easy to agree with and to look at,’ says architect Siri Zanelli. ‘The fact it’s functional, useful and beautifully crafted.’

Norwegian-born Siri knows more than most about the attraction to Scandinavian design, considering she has worked all over the world through her architectural design business. ‘You learn something new in every setting, and you meet different people,’ she says on travelling globe, ‘but Scandinavian design is applicable to almost any setting with its minimalism and functionalism and beautiful use of materials.’

Increase your living space without extending

Siri’s home is an example of how to make more space without extending

Interestingly, despite the fact that Studio Siri Zanelli has worked on some fascinating projects – you can read about three in particular later on – it was my interviewee’s own Islington home that caught my eye. Her family have lived on Offord Road for six years and their love for the area inspired Siri to put her experience into something very much closer to home. ‘We have had two children since we bought the flat,’ Siri starts to explain to me as we shelter from the wind and rain inside Frederick’s, ‘and it started to feel smaller and smaller. What I found – and I guess everyone feels this who lives in a flat – is you have a second room you use as a study, then it needed to be a nursery, and then you are stuck with a computer in the middle of the living room that reminds you of all the things that you need to be doing… We didn’t want to move because we love our neighbourhood.’

Making full use of the space available to her, Siri managed a feat that makes the flat feel a whole lot bigger than it looks on the outside, a la Doctor Who’s flying police box. A desk space has been incorporated on the landing, bespoke furniture has been created to work with the space, extra wardrobe space has been added, and a storage staircase has been implemented that gives access to the attic. It’s a godsend to any flat owner in Islington. ‘The terraces here are such lovely houses with high ceilings, old windows and period features,’ Siri says, ‘but quite a few of them are impractical. For example, there is hardly any wardrobe space or you enter and stumble straight into a sitting room. With small changes you can utilise the space a better.’

Increase your living space without extending

The desk is incorporated into the landing

Siri name-checks her time in Tokyo as an inspiration for her home – ‘It taught me to live in small, compact spaces’ – but she speaks with genuine warmth about the city that’s become her home. ‘In London, the nice thing here is you always work with the fabric of this old city. On the one hand, London is dynamic and there is so much going on, so in that sense it’s very modern, but everything also relates to its history. The old buildings set the standard.’

Look a little closer at the work of Studio Siri Zanelli and it’s clear that it’s a design company keen on a challenge, covering residential projects, refurbishments, retail projects, bespoke furniture and interior solutions as well as sketch projects, illustrations and feasibility studies. ‘I guess people contact me wanting something a little different or something tailored to them,’ Siri explains. ‘Every project is a fresh beginning. I try to understand what the client really wants and what the situation requires in terms of planning and constraints of the site.’

Siri’s latest project illustrates this perfectly. ‘I have just put in a planning application for an extension in Walthamstow. The original house is almost the size of a quarter of a terrace house – it’s tiny! Now we are trying to turn it into a three bedroom house with access to the attic and looking at clever use of levels, and then jiggling about everything inside. We call it a Tetris house where all the little pieces need to come together!’ It’s no wonder we can’t get enough of everything Scandinavian.

To see full details of Studio Siri Zanelli’s work, visit sirizanelli.com

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