Ask the Architect

Posted on by Beyond Bespoke

What does it take to transform an unloved Holland Park Victorian villa into a stunning family home with plenty of room for partying and ‘wow’ spaces? Mike Fisher of Studio Indigo guides us through this luxury British property project

What was the brief?
The client asked us to ‘wave our magic wand’ on a double-fronted, early Victorian detached villa and transform an unloved house into something that would surprise and delight, while still creating a family home. The objectives were to increase both the size and the spacial awareness of the property. The client entertains on a regular basis and wanted something that would accommodate large parties and still retain an intimate feel. The existing façade was retained and a new villa rebuilt behind it. The footprint of the original building was extended by 18ft with a series of large lateral rooms on five levels overlooking the garden.

The property retains a family home feel

What was the biggest challenge?
Obtaining planning permission was particularly difficult as the building was extended from 6,000 sq ft to 11,000 sq ft. However, these difficulties were soon overcome by extensive neighbourhood support and a positive response from the residents. We convinced the planning authorities that the new building would add a positive contribution to the conservation area.

We also had to convince the planning authorities to allow the removal of a large, diseased chestnut tree from the front garden. It was necessary to take the matter to appeal, which we won. We replaced the diseased tree with a new, 15m London plane tree, and on the day of the replanting the Tree Officer from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea emailed to say how pleased he was with the new tree and how delighted he was to see how tall it was.

What went wrong?
Very little as it was run by an excellent team of building professionals with whom we had a very good working relationship.

What went right?
Moving the staircase off-centre was a stroke of genius, allowing a vista from the front door right through to the back garden and creating a dramatic entrance to the house. The new double-height entrance space was impressive and psychologically and visually connected the upper ground and first-floor levels. The new staircase over five levels connected all the floors of the house and created the feeling of intimacy. It was dramatically top-lit and allowed light to penetrate deep into the house and into the basement.

The new staircase connects five floors and is dramatically top lit
The new staircase connects five floors and is top-lit

The three lateral rooms – the family room, the drawing room and the master bedroom, all of which overlook the garden – were particularly impressive in both size and the number of windows. The very large garden at the rear of the house is a unique feature of this area of London, which collectively covers nearly eight acres and is a haven for wildlife.

What are you most pleased with?
The quality of the build, the design and the materials. While being impressive, the house also retains that family home feel. Architecturally, the summer pavilion at the bottom of the garden both delights and amuses guests while providing overspill guest accommodation and a summer dining room.

What would you add if could start again?
A walk-in fridge and larder, a massage room and a large, dedicated store room.

What next?
We are now undertaking a new project for the same client which, although smaller in scale, is nevertheless impressive, with plenty of ‘wow’ spaces and charm, with an individual character and plenty of light-filled rooms. There are no run-of-the-mill rooms in this house – unfortunately there is no built-in fridge, either!

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