When we were appointed to transform a four-storey Victorian terraced house on Brackenbury Road in west London, little was known about its history. Our clients bought the property in 2012, at which point it was in the process of being carved into two flats by a developer. In the interiors, sadly, very little of architectural value remained.
As a result, many weeks were spent in the archives of Hammersmith & Fulham Council, searching for pieces of the historic jigsaw. Through the censuses and commercial directories, a picture started to appear: from the late-nineteenth century, a family of drapers had lived in the house for over 40 years. This period became our core driver in the redesign of the house and in our response to the brief for “a home that has roots or a sense of place”. Early on, we proposed a collection of commissioned textiles that would refer to the craft and lives of the draper family, while also creating a strong, legible design narrative.
An important aspect of our approach was to work vertically as well as volumetrically. Core living spaces are repositioned in the townhouse’s central volume, and occasional spaces – like the clients’ textile studio and the seasonal winter room – are located at either end of the house, at the very top and bottom. Floor decks were replaced and realigned, allowing for dual aspect spaces and new proportions. We added a new staircase at the front of the building, which drifts across the plan as it rises. A steel handrail becomes a sculptural device that allows the fabrics to weave and dart across the spaces and floors, threading their way around the building while interacting with structure, light and the inhabitants.
Despite the lack of original features in the building, we played with the concept of new colliding with old through use of materials such as oak and larch lath cladding and reclaimed pine and iroko. This was important to our clients, who were also delighted to find that the building’s history connected with their own interest in textiles and embroidery.
The fact that the townhouse had formerly been used as a commercial premises and a workshop also informed our clients’ desire to preserve the sense of a semi-public space. We therefore retained the appearance of a shopfront in the street elevation. And inside, a gallery-like effect arose from the desire to display the work of four contemporary textile designers – Anna Glover, Jennifer Hollidge, Deepa Panchamia and Philip Sanderson. The spaces have a domestic feel, but also suggest their potential to be used in other ways – a welcome ambiguity arising from the somewhat experimental quality of the project.