Light, space and views are transformed in a Mortlake flat by Giles Reid Architects


Mary Gaudin

Located within the former Queen’s Head Hotel on the Thames at Mortlake, west London, and aligned on the finish line of the celebrated annual Boat Race, is a newly reconfigured two-level apartment by Giles Reid Architects. The bend in the river allows a clear view from Chiswick Bridge to Barnes Bridge, and at night there is a 180-degree perspective undisturbed by any city lights. The former public house was itself built on the site of the library of the mathematician, astronomer and advisor to Queen Elizabeth I, John Dee (1527-1609).


In the existing plan (above left), all the bedrooms opened directly off the living space, while the main bedroom broke up the long river elevation. The only means of escape was past the open-plan kitchen.

The key idea was to reorganise the plan into ‘bands’ running parallel with the river. In the first band are the kitchen, dining and living areas. Both bedrooms and a new shared bathroom are located in the second band, and closest to the entrance is a laundry and ensuite bathroom, now accessed from the main bedroom. An internal staircase leads up to a small sun room and roof terrace.

Discrete views have been created through the interior which help maintain a sense of the bigger whole. A glazed slot beside the fireplace allows a glimpse from the living area to the windows of the main bedroom, yet it maintains privacy. The hall, lined with bookcases, runs from the main entrance to the living room and acts as a spine to the plan. The apartment was stripped back to its structure and a new opening made to link what had been the common bathroom to the new main bedroom. New plumbing and electrics were installed throughout.

Sawn English oak was used for both flooring and skirting, and also runs across the base of the internal doors. The oak has a band-sawn finish and a white stain to emphasise its grain under raking light. The oak also runs diagonally up both walls of the stair to the sunroom above. The board setting-out on one wall exactly mirrors that on the wall opposite. This creates a trompe l’oeil effect from the shadow of the sunroom balustrade. Joinery is made of smooth solid oak with a clear matte finish. Full-height cupboard and sliding doors are hand-painted. The kitchen worktop is made of solid stone, as is the hearth. The brick fireplace was restored and bagged with a lime render. Walls and floors to both the ensuite and the bathroom are also finished in solid limestone, as is the external terrace. The external ‘chapel’ windows have been refurbished and some have been replaced to match.

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