Ingersoll Road is a terraced house with a natural and simple beauty, located in London, designed by McLaren Excell.

This was a project about making something extraordinary out of the very ordinary. The architects were approached to extend and re-furbish a Victorian terraced house in Shepherd's Bush for a growing family. Remit was very conventional: a ground floor extension and loft conversion — a potentially hum-drum brief. What wasn't so conventional was the approach: to come up with a design which rejected the typical solutions with aspirations beyond the planning-friendly aesthetics of a London terraced house extension. Architects were expressly asked to avoid Velux windows, folding / sliding doors and pitched roofs and in their place propose an alternative building profile using a more interesting (and unexpected) palette of materials. This attitude applied inside and out, to both the ground floor extension and the new story at the top of the house.

To deliver on this brief, the project had to overcome some stringent planning regulations. 'Rights to Light' planning guidelines stipulate that extensions must be no higher than 2m, with a pitched roof no more than 45deg. This lends itself to the 'Velux' aesthetic and unbalanced rear elevations with chamfered corners. The neighbor agreed to submit a joint application to sidestep the issue surrounding loss of light, this helped approval for a boundary wall height of 3m enabling architects to design a more interesting interior take a less predictable approach with the façade.

From the outset, discussions centered around the use of insitu concrete: for floors, walls and 'furniture' elements within the scheme. As the dominant material presence, concrete was chosen primarily for its aesthetic qualities but the opportunity to build in high thermal mass and develop free-form structures became increasingly important considerations as the project progressed. As a point of reference concrete then became the driver for all other material decisions. The facade of the extension is clad in rusted Corten steel and the interior joinery fronts made from Grey Elm — both providing the necessary contrast, warmth and richness against the cool swathes of smooth concrete.

Spatially, the ground floor is designed to comprise of two main spaces — the kitchen extension and the more formal living rooms — and these spaces interlock around a central fulcrum of storage units with circulation to either side. Each space flows into the other by an extending limb of floor finish negotiating the threshold and serving as landing, seat or bookshelf to break down the formal differentiation between rooms. The framing of views and the shift of planes have been constructed to choreograph movement from one space to another, with walls and plinths quietly receding, or changing level. The design of corners, windows seats and benches have been considered with a young family in mind: places to accommodate the day-to-day activities of children and adults alike — sitting, reading, talking, playing or resting — with the large window seat projecting into the garden and brushing up against the foliage. The rear garden is considered as another 'room' of the house and the view to the garden from the front door underlines its importance, providing relief from the efficiently planned interior. The layout of the garden is defined by a concrete bench for outdoor entertaining in warmer months and two large glass panes provide plenty of natural daylight and help the external 'room' feel connected to the interior.

Presenting fewer opportunities for spatial invention, the loft conversion has a very different, more ethereal feel to the ground floor. A reductive palette of Scandinavian white-washed Douglas Fir boards, light walls and exposed brickwork keep it simple and bright. The Victorian stairwell winds up the house and collides with the new loft staircase — a meeting between the old and the new — which leads up to the top landing and is illuminated with natural daylight from the rooflight above. The treads of the staircase lead on to a large expanse of Douglas Fir boards which flood the room and run up the walls as panelling. This panelling forms a datum line around the room, its height determined by a long built-in desk occupying the full width of the loft and becoming an open shelf as it wraps around the corner at one end. The desk is by a large frameless wrap-around window, looking west onto the rooftops and chimney-pots of the houses opposite. The room is planned such that it can be used as a study or bedroom, and has a shower room and utility cupboard off to one side.

McLaren Excell
Kate and Ewan Thompson
Shepherd's Bush, London W12, United Kingdom
Date of design