ARTICLE Holly Jean Brooker
+ Project budget: £450,000
+ Project timeline: 9 Months
+ Client brief: Three story family home with plenty of character
+ Location: Maida Vale, London, United Kingdom
It was curiously clever design combined with engineering prowess which enabled an architecturally designed home to be built on a neglected sliver of land, wedged between two Victorian townhouses in London’s, Maida Vale.
Aptly named Sliver House, the unique glass-fronted abode was built on a complex historic site, previously housing the stables and storerooms for a Victorian wine seller in the 19th century. Uninhabited for decades, there seemed to be no feasible way to use the unusual space. A local resident, of London’s Maida Vale, bought the land in the early 2000’s but quickly hit trouble when it came to building on the site.
Nicholas Boyarsky, one of the two founders of Boyarsky Murphy Architects, explains, “Our client had lived next door in a flat for many years and had always dreamed of building his home there. Some 10 years or so before he approached us he had asked an architect to look into refurbishing the original structure but it just wasn’t workable. When he came to us he had decided to demolish the property and build again.”
The challenges were obvious from the outset. The site was unusual and small, and with the street lined with classic Victorian terraces, anything outside of this norm was going to raise eyebrows. And, of course, being a heritage area, there were considerable planning restrictions to adhere to.
"The Sliver House is a unique response to a difficult infill site," Nicholas explains.
"There were no obvious ways to develop it. The planners didn’t really know how to respond to our proposal with its intricate geometries. They wanted the building to be subservient to its surroundings so they made us lop one floor off (from the original design plan).”
Yet with ingenious design, Boyarsky Murphy have created a comfortable three-story family residence that sits graciously sandwiched between two imposing Victorian houses, confidently holding a voice of its own.
With a street frontage of less than 3 metres, the site itself is just eleven metres deep and 7.5metres wide at the rear of the property in a triangular shape. From the street front, the full length glass exterior paneling is subtle, yet the juxtaposition to the homes either side ensure the tiny sliver of a home dominates the street scape. The site widens at the rear, giving Nicholas the opportunity to develop a private garden downstairs for, much needed, additional living. The kitchen and dining area opens out onto this courtyard, wth floor to ceiling sliding doors creating a completely open space..
With such a tiny workable area, the build itself was a challenge, logistically. This needed to be carefully thought through prior to the build commencing. Nicholas explains, “We devised a structural system whereby the first two floors (excavated basement and ground floor) were concrete and the upper floors were steel frame with timber infills. This way the two parts of the building could be built independently at the same time”. As well, one of the neighbouring flank walls has a range of external windows and none of these could be blocked from the build. “We had to treat the design of each floor plan separately in relation to these external constraints. The project therefore resulted in a stacked house.”
The use of floor to ceiling frosted glass on front and back facades allow natural soft light to float into the tiered home, which creates a romantic feel throughout, and ensures privacy for its residents. Strategically placed skylights and windows ensure natural lighting is at its optimal level in each space, a no-brainer for the narrow abode.
A stair case winds across the home to suit the layout of each of the three levels, with sunlight drifting through each layer in varying interjections, weaving a path of shadows across the home. The upper levels house the bedrooms and bathrooms, with each room protruding outside the building- a unique tactic devised to achieve maximum floor space for the family to enjoy.
The intentionally simple palate of white tones softens the stacked box-like structure and with minimalistic furniture and aesthetics, devoid of drapery and floor furnishings, the pared back home resists the nonsensical cluttered approach to family living so many employ.
It is a well thought out home, with every angle, every inch of space thoughtfully considered and enhanced to create a family abode in a bustling metropolis which is peaceful, calming and quite frankly, stunning.
For more, see issue 021 of Renovate Magazine.