Project Name: Abercorn Place

Location: St John’s Wood, London

Date completed: February 2016

Interior Designer: Hugh Tuffley

Architect: Tim Palgrave & Robert Wilson

A contemporary designed, new build, four-storey family home built in a conservation area in St John’s Wood, London from Granit Chartered Architects. The initial brief was to re-design the layout of a semi-detached house and to add a second storey to the property. However, the brief evolved during the design process to create a new build, contemporary designed home, suitable for three generations of the client’s family. The design had to maximise the space available both within the property and outside by enhancing the garden space. There was a clear preference for establishing a strong link between the inside and outside areas of the home, blending natural and man-made materials throughout.

The client wanted the home to accommodate multiple facets. First and foremost it had to be a beautiful place to live for the family members, creating an environment for a healthy lifestyle and for entertaining friends and family. The second core requirement was to create space suitable for curating and displaying the client’s sculptures, artwork, and pieces of furniture collected from around the world. This required open and connected spaces for the main living areas, but conversely, the brief also included quiet, secluded spaces along with a spa and gym. The final core requirement was to create space for home working. This was to accommodate a studio for the client’s acupuncture practice and an office for administration.

As the brief evolved it also required the property to evolve from a horizontal form over two storeys to a vertical form over four storeys, without creating a sense of disconnection. All areas and facets of the home had to be tied together to create the feeling of it being a connected, well integrated home. A strong central circulation element was needed to tie the house together. Initially two three storey voids were explored but ultimately the design settled on a unique staircase which turns out to be Granit Chartered Architects favourite aspect of the project. The stair is a combination of new and old materials. It has been designed using cutting edge technology and re-established design techniques, combining highly engineered polished concrete formed in a factory with a wrought iron balustrade formed by hand. It was engineered and designed using advanced modelling but ultimately uses a simple, historic structural philosophy of torsional stairs – these can be seen in many old buildings. The staircase is the core of the property that glues together all of the different elements of the home.

The lower ground floor contains the spa and gym area, the ground floor houses the main living rooms and the first and second floors accommodate the master and guest suites, complete with dressing rooms and en-suite bathrooms. A separate garden room creates a wellness space that accommodates the client’s acupuncture therapy practice. The floor plan provides the open spaces the client wanted, without forgetting the purpose for each area. For example the ground floor houses an open plan living and dining room perfect for displaying works of art and sculpture. This room is flanked on either end by the kitchen and media rooms, both of which can be closed off to create individual and private spaces. The wellness space is separate from the main home creating a clear divide between the living area and the client’s working premises too. The materials change throughout the property representing the elements. Natural stone, ceramic and wood is used to enhance the sense of luxury and wellness provided by natural materials.

The property is one-half of a semi-detached house and is located in a conservation area. This provided the context for the design. To some degree, the house also acts as a gatekeeper to a small mews road along its flank wall. The tiered, ‘wedding cake’ form of the building, while also providing interest in form, also played homage to its role as a gateway building. As with most design-driven residential projects, the end product is a result of carefully considered decisions, but equally of the individual craftsmen who execute it. The finishing of carpentry, partially built-in joinery, the concrete and metal work of the stairs, the mitred tiling and stone work in the kitchens and bathrooms, all required the patience and skill of good individual trades.