Creating a contemporary garden studio in their Honor Oak home earned architects Lizzie and Joe Fraher more precious family time, discovers Isobel Diamond
Finding a better work-life-balance for married architects, Lizzie and Joe Fraher, meant designing a home and office in one cohesive space. The Green Studio, built in the garden of their ground-floor flat, enables the couple to run their architecture firm while caring for two daughters, eight week-old Orla and two year-old-Claudia. ‘It works brilliantly,’ says Lizzie, ‘it’s made us a happier family.’
On a corner property of a Victorian terraced street in Honor Oak Park, the original garden has been transformed into a kitchen extension, leaving a smaller outside space with a table and chairs for al fresco dining. The studio, clad in stainless steel mesh, is hidden behind a climbing façade of luxuriant evergreens and vines.
When the couple first came to view the property the garden was in such disarray that no one had put in an offer, but for this visionary pair who were renting in Angel, it presented a perfect opportunity. ‘We heard [south London] was very good for families with loads of parks and green spaces. We love it.’
Indoors, the kitchen extension is the heart of the home. A large table makes a focal point and lengthens to seat 16 people so they can entertain their large family. Simple white units and a concrete worktop, accentuated with flecks of green recycled glass and cast by the couple themselves, complement grey walls. A lime green vinyl floor adds warmth and the floor-to-ceiling sliding doors bathe the space in light, bringing the garden views inside. The interior design was their inspiration. The adjoining open-plan living area and kitchen have a muted grey palette, painted in Farrow & Ball Elephant Breath and Skimming Stone.
‘Ceilings are often left behind and ignored when they can be quite liberating and exciting,’ says Lizzie, talking about their kitchen roof made from 100% renewable timber. It glides like butterfly wings towards the studio outside and the small windows add additional light. An innovative architectural structure, it supports itself with no steel beams.
Outside the roof makes the biggest impact. Planted with grass and wild flowers it replaces the lost habitats from building the home and office extensions, creating new green spaces that attract bees, birds and butterflies. The Frahers had used the green roof idea on client’s projects and wanted to bring it to their own home. It reduces the temperature of the buildings, acting as a cooling and shading device.
The property is designed to be environmentally sustainable, so during the renovation they started from scratch: reinsulating walls, glazing windows and adding an under floor heating system and solar panels. Maximum daylight comes through the additional windows so artificial lighting is minimised. They also try to use recycled products – all the timber is stained scaffolding boards.
This functional family living space was made possible by redesigning the original one-bed flat. It now has two bedrooms and an open-plan living area, with utility room and bathroom. The grey and green colour scheme is repeated throughout and possessions are hidden behind white wardrobes and storage units. Doors are designed to draw back against walls, so rooms can be separate, or flow as one cohesive space. All the joinery was designed, fabricated and installed by the practice’s sister company Fraher + Co.
Lizzie and Joe met while studying at university and in 2009 set up their own architecture practice. Their previous office was in Farringdon meant a long commute. The garden studio is a small, clever design on two floors. The mezzanine has a desk space and uses letterbox red parachute cord as a lightweight balustrade and a webbed design feature that makes the deck appear as if it is supported by the webbing. Downstairs there are three desks and Herman Miller chairs that echo the cord pattern upstairs. With more of us becoming self-employed our living spaces need to adapt. The Fraher family appear to have got the balance just right.