Nimtim architects is spreading its signature vibrant style far and wide across south east London. Nimi Attanayake and Tim O’Callaghan – the duo behind the practice – take us on a tour of one of their stand-out projects, the Yellow House in Herne Hill

When you are trying to get an idea or point across, it arguably helps when you have tested said idea or point on yourself. That’s been a case in point for the duo behind nimtim architects – Nimi Attanayake and Tim O’Callaghan – and their Forest Hill home, which has undergone a whole host of design changes that have inspired, in part, some of their outside projects.

‘One of the key things that has transferred over to our practice work is the idea that you can have a strategy for the entire house,’ Attanayake explains, ‘which can be implemented over a period of time, and this is something that we have helped devise for many of our clients in the past.’

‘What has been interesting is that we didn’t have the money – any money really – to do everything that we wanted to do, so through necessity we’ve had to make a series of small, incremental changes over time as and when funds became available,’ O’Callaghan adds. ‘This series of light touches has actually resulted in quite a fundamental change to the way the house works.’

Launched by O’Callaghan two and a half years ago – Attanayake joined the fort some nine months later – today nimtim architects have a team of five based in their East Dulwich office and are becoming renowned for their vibrant approach to architecture. Expect a friendly welcome here – right down to their dog Corbi – where there’s an emphasis on projects being about teamwork between nimtim and their clients.

‘We’re not precious about what a project should be or become and don’t bring any preconceived ideas to the process,’ says O’Callaghan. ‘This means each project is unique and responds to the specific requirements of the client and their brief.’

The result has seen south east Londoners reap the rewards. ‘Most of our projects have been located in south east London,’ Attanayake says.

‘It was a conscious decision to set up here, not just because we live here, but also because we recognised that it was an area with huge potential and was not as densely populated with architecture practices as, say, north and east London.

‘We have made a lot of friends and our clients who live nearby work in diverse creative fields. They’re very savvy and are also very aware of the power of good design to transform their homes and their lives.’

We don’t bring any preconceived ideas to the process. Each project is unique and responds to the specific requirements of the client and their brief

Their Forest Hill home aside, one project in particular stands out: the Yellow House in Herne Hill. ‘That was a side and rear extension to a ground floor Victorian flat,’ O’Callaghan takes up.

‘The clients, who were in their late 20s, had a very limited budget. With them, we devised a strategy where we could provide an additional bedroom that could be let out and could help fund the rest of the project. The next challenge was to deliver an interesting and ambitious project on such a limited budget.

‘We used masonry blocks that are normally associated with warehouse buildings and worked with the manufacturers to come up with unique cut blocks to frame the windows, before adding colour to the windows to create a bold and unusual look,’ he explains.

The future, then, looks bright for nimtim architects. ‘We have several projects starting on site early this year, which is very exciting,’ Attanayake enthuses. ‘There’s also some very exciting projects in the pipeline including some new-build houses in and around south east London.’ Best keep an eye on their Forest Hill home to see the shape of what’s to come.


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