London-based architecture and interior practice TR Studio have recently completed the refurbishment and interior design of BML House, a modernist 220 sqm London family home designed in the 1960s by British architect John Winter. TR Studio set about retaining the property’s strong forms, enhancing the original exterior design by modernizing elements including the porch and windows, without losing the character of the striking elevation.
On the front façade of the property, TR Studio added a double-height extension. The extension itself, respectful to the building’s original character, is set back from the main front elevation. Utilising an open ‘hit and miss’ format to brick up the massing, this architectural detail employed by TR Studio together with opaque frosted glass created a privacy screen for the newly established ensuite at first-floor level, whilst maximizing daylight. This ‘hit and miss’ brickwork style also creates a sense of ‘life’ beyond the walls and adds an element of intrigue into the design’s function. Upon completion of the exterior, TR Studio painted the whole façade white, unifying and creating a cohesive front elevation between the existing brickwork and the new additions.
Not an A-typical Belsize Park property, the form of the original building with its strong architecture was something TR Studio wanted to celebrate. By giving the property a ‘facelift’ with new large format, black painted, aluminium, sliding windows using slim framed section profiles, the studio modernised the structure and rationalised elements such as the porch and entrance. Landscaping the property’s front garden also added a sense of belonging and completion to the building’s approach.
Inside, the property had an internal layout that was less than desirable for modern family living. It was here that TR Studio made quite significant changes by creating an open plan layout on the ground floor for the growing family, connecting the garden and maximising the internal floor area with a front and rear extension.
As you enter the property, a large new hallway with built-in floor to ceiling storage cupboards was designed and installed by the studio. Originally, a rabbit warren of rooms and corridors with low ceilings which had seen little to no modernisation, TR Studio stripped out all the internal walls. It is here at the entrance that the line of sight across the expansive interior through to the rear garden is realised, connecting indoors and outdoors. The client was keen to have an inclusive home, with that in mind TR Studio designed a large, open-plan living arrangement for ground floor consisting of a living area, kitchen, laundry room, dining area and playroom, allowing the family to remain connected as they live, work, and play in the space together within defined and zoned areas.
The walls across the ground floor space are painted with Farrow & Ball’s Wevet, a very soft white. Not as stark as brilliant white it was chosen for its subtle light fraction and to allow the walls to become a canvas for artwork such as a commissioned painting by artist William McLure. Supplemented by wall lights and floor lamps to layer varying levels of illumination, spotlights were chosen by the studio to provide general lighting across the ground floor. This mix of general, task and ambient lighting allows for complete flexibility, with all fixed lighting on dimmer circuits to allow for changeable light levels from day to night.
Both TR Studio and the client wanted a unifying floor material for the expansive open plan. Being used to concrete floors the client wanted to emulate this in their new London home and opted for a poured concrete. Underfloor heating was installed to ensure the concrete is never cold underfoot.
The heart of the home, a large, handcrafted oak kitchen was designed by TR Studio and made by GEB London. A combination of drawers, cupboards and tall, pull-out pantry storage allows for easily viewable and accessible storage. TR Studio selected a characterful timber to line the doors and cupboard fronts pared with a striking Calcatta marble splash back and worktop to offset the natural materials. Sleek fixtures and fittings including a Quooker boiling water tap, Franke sinks, Incsinkerator, Miele appliances, Hafele products and a Blum space tower ensured the kitchen was to a high specification. A large kitchen island is central to the space and houses storage and a hob whilst also offering space for seating. With a matching Calcatta work surface, the island features a contemporary fluted timber sides adding texture and depth to the area. A sky light above the island was chosen instead of an extractor to provide natural ventilation and airflow and flood the area with light. A graphic, architectural pendant light in brushed brass further enhances the kitchen’s refined elegance. Just off the kitchen, a separate laundry room features a sliding door which can be closed when entertaining.
A casual dining area adjacent to the kitchen was created for everyday family dining and as a space for the client’s children to complete homework. Here TR Studio designed a large L-shaped built-in timber wall seat upholstered in a textural blue stripe. A large timber dining table and chairs complete the area. Adding panels to the white walls, punctuated by white wall lights, TR Studio have subtly zoned the area with this simple architectural detailing added a warmth and coziness to the corner.
From here, a living area with a large, curved sofa designed by the client sits alongside leather occasional seating to provide a comfortable yet stylish place to relax. Large format, glazed sliding doors frame the interior view out to the rear garden, transforming the ground floor and flooding the deep plan with light. Wherever possible, TR Studio aim to maximum natural daylight. Here, the sun tracks around the rear garden which allows for sunlight to penetrate between the houses and in the height of summer, offers maximum enjoyment. When open, the large format doors connect the kitchen and living area directly to the garden, allowing the garden to become an extension of the ground floor and providing an expanded way of living in summer months.
A more formal dining area with views across the front garden and a children’s play area take up the rest of the open plan.
Elsewhere on the ground floor, a separate home office and WC shower room were created by TR Studio. The guest bathroom is very much in contrast to the white open plan living space. Using this space as an opportunity to be bolder with the colour palette and to create a talking point, TR Studio committed to a fully dark theme painting the small WC and shower room black and installing a Nero Marquina vanity unit pared with striking monochrome terrazzo tiles. Brushed brass fixtures complete the luxury feel. Stepping into the unexpected space, full of ambience, it surprises and delights in equal measure.
The small home office created by the studio sits at the front of the building and looks out on to the driveway providing a private and quiet sanctuary for focused work, and a space flexible enough in the future to double as an accessible guest bedroom for older family members.
With an expansive and wide plan, TR Studio have created a cohesive style with the concrete floor bringing the space together and the décor and soft furnishings adding personality and colour. The furniture choices stand the test of time with classic and mid-century items that won’t fall out of trend. This timelessness ensures the interior will grow with the family, with key pieces that can be passed down through generations. Quality over mass production was key with pieces from artisanal designers adding to the elegance and richness of the space.
A curved stairwell designed by TR Studio which connects ground to first floor presents itself as soon as you step into the property. A sculptural piece in the middle of the ground floor where there are few walls, the stairwell’s curves are expressed and enjoyed in an otherwise ‘square’ ground floor with angular walls and junctions which creates an intriguing juxtaposition of styles. The first-floor stairwell connects to the sky with a large, frameless rooflight which floods the staircase with top light. This provides a serenity and ethereal quality that washes down and adds borrowed light to the ground floor mid plan and invites you up to the first floor with intrigue.
On the first floor, TR Studio removed and repositioned most of the partition walls to suit a new, more appealing layout consisting of 4 double bedrooms, a large, shared, family bathroom and 2 ensuite bathrooms. The layout is rationalised and maximised in doing so. A generous landing at the top of the stairwell was carved out. Avoiding narrow, rabbit warren corridors, all the bedrooms are accessed off this large landing with a skylight above that makes this thoroughfare not just transitionary but gives it a presence of its own. A solid oak floor across the first floor creates a sense of connectively with the studio employing marquetry for the oak boards on the landing. This design detail was used to create a sense of arrival and interest with a pattern directly below the skylight. Both the client and TR Studio were again keen to keep a subtle colour palette to reflect the tranquillity of the space.
Upon entering the primary bedroom, a large walk-in dressing room with drawers and hanging space is crafted from oak. Designed to keep the bedroom sanctuary clutter free, the designated dressing area adds a sense of hotel glamour, and on a practical level allows anyone travelling early or coming in late to not disturb the other. A large, modern ensuite features a built-in marble clad bath, shower, and floor. Providing an elegant and striking backdrop to the ensuite, the sleek marble offsets the chrome fittings to create a spa like space.
A guest bedroom with ensuite clad in béton cire plaster and brass fixtures benefits from the ‘hit and miss’ brickwork on the front elevation with light flooding into the shower room to create a sense of tranquillity and uniqueness. Two children’s bedrooms, both sizeable, have been designed by TR Studio to include bespoke built-in storage. The studio also created designated areas to play, an area to draw and corners for reading. A family bathroom featuring geometric floor tiles, a large bath and walk in shower completes the first floor.
Lateral spaces, a sense of openness, a curving minimal staircase, marquetry details, a skylight, and minimalist décor refined down to the core details are what sum up the design of BML House. Creating a better flow through the house and connecting both ground and first floors in a more elegant and enjoyable way, TR Studio have transformed the original interior. Once a maze of rooms and narrow corridors with no connection to the outside, nature or the sky, BML House is now a light and open, inclusive home for an integrated family life, which feels connected to the exterior and the outside world through the considered use of glazing and architectural design details. In the refurbishment and extension, TR Studio have created something quite unique and modernist which stands apart to the typical 4-storey terrace homes that surround it.
“We love the free-flowing lateral spaces that we were able to create here, whereby ones focus is always drawn to the gardens via the large walls of glass,” says Tom Rutt, TR Studio founder. “Taking the original modernist principles of the house, and re-fitting it 50 years later to work with a new family, felt like we were working in a continuum of the original modernist ideals.”