A finely-crafted duplex apartment at Paddington Basin by Con Form Architects draws on Japanese traditions


Simone Bossi

A two-level apartment on the 11th and 12th floors of an unassuming residential block overlooking Paddington Basin in west London has been reconfigured by Con Form Architects. The crafted reordering consciously recalls the simplicity of traditional Japanese dwellings as a point of departure, setting some distance from what the architect describes as “the mundane, uniform location within a large residential development”.


The apartment felt “like a resultant space, a by-product of urban massing and volume unit production, rather than representative of our clients”, says the architect. Rather than move, however, they sought to challenge this condition, and the initial conversations centred around engendering a bespoke quality to the project, “a sense of craftsmanship that rallies against this uniformity”.

The crafted language also draws on the decorative timber detailing found in the traditional English narrowboats that frequent the basin’s canals. In parallel the architects looked to the Japanese shoji – a lightweight, translucent, often moveable screen that the clients knew from their travels. Here, automated blinds, hidden in the re-clad mullions, are employed to provide both privacy from overlooking and shade from the evening sun.


Rather than struggling against the rhythm of existing curtain-wall, the architect has drawn it into the composition, where it provides the setting-out reference for a bespoke timber-lined grid. The resulting lines are intended to draw the eye to the expansive views and connect the apartment to outside.

The bespoke craftsmanship extends to the matt black kitchen joinery, the cast-concrete kitchen and bathroom sinks, Corian bath, the LED-lit timber stair handrail and floor-to-ceiling Douglas fir doors, all elements made by a one craftsman. The two floors are linked by a new timber staircase that significantly improves their connectivity. A concrete pier runs through both levels – forming a balustrade that wraps around a Dracaena tree that the clients have owned for 21 years.

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