The Proverbial Glass Box
“The hand has the richest articulation of space.”
We do extensions, we do! And we are extremely proud of this one!
This project landed on our desk through a family friend, we always say to any young (ish) architect doing their own thing, always do every project that comes your way.
It’s a huge honour for us to be asked by such VIPs as family members or friends. As stated in essays on our website, every project is so important, not just those for family and friends, but we could argue there is extra pressure potentially with close family / friends because after all they are friends of family!
Another really nice aspect to this project is that it’s our first residential extension outside the bubble of London, its so nice to work in weird and wonderful places. We found the planning phase of this project super relaxed and North Herts were so accommodating and supportive of the modern design.
But the most important ingredient in any project if we are able to speak freely and openly is chemistry, and specifically design chemistry between us: your faithful servant’s and the client.
It flowed so easily on this project, it was like: ‘’what about this, oh we love this’’ and ‘’what about that, oh we love that too’’ we sang from the same hymn sheet.
Whenever the client would send through an idea, we seemed to really like it and vice versa.
We think this particular design is something we would choose for our own homes if we had the chance!
So what’s important to us for residential extensions? Well, there are a few aspects we love in this project, but one thing we are learning is: to start with a very simple material palette. Please don’t try to design an extension from every single Pinterest you have ever liked.
We always find our most successful projects have two or three materials only, in this case we limited the palette to three main elements: concrete, timber and glass.
Concrete was used for the floor, worktops and a low-level datum that formed the boundary walls of the extension.
Douglas Fir timber was used for as much of the design as possible – joinery, kitchen doors and exposed beams.
Lastly glass, the client had an idea to frame the garden, and we achieved this using beautiful frameless glass that is asymmetrical in its design.
It is this a-symmetry that we exaggerated, a Ying and yang of glass, wood and concrete. We especially enjoyed the exposed concrete datum that runs around the walls of the extension and then plays service to more frameless glass openings.
At one end the concrete datum goes low to form a bench for socialising while someone else cooks, and then at the top end of the kitchen the concrete forms a base for a very special feature – a pair of interlocking frameless glass windows, a sort of architectural sculpture built into the design.
Eduardo Chillida does lots of heavy looking interlocking sculptures and we always love to study his work.
Lastly a bold move we presented to the client was to drop the finished floor level to the garden as the existing house was set much higher than the garden creating a disconnect between the two. By doing this the volume of the extension becomes oversized and super grand in its proportions.
The glass is ambitious but rationalised – We made sure the main mass of solid wall facing West acts as a natural shade, to avoid over heating but still enjoying framed views of the East facing garden and beautiful huge Birch Tree.
To tie these elements together beautiful timber joinery extends out of the kitchen and forms the sliding door opening to create a timber portal to the garden.
To the rear of the garden we built a new garden studio/gym, mirroring the language of the larger house extension with a raw exposed palette of blockwork and timber.
Joinery and Kitchen: Materialise Creative Design
Photography: Nick Dearden of Building Narratives
Video: Nikki Mrkic-Smith of DHaus