Shortlisted for the LEAF International for 'Best Use of Space Award' 2013 & New London Architecture 'Don't Move, Improve!' Award 2013/14 for best Interior Design.
We have completed this refurbishment of a building in the heart of trendy Shoreditch in London. The property is arranged over seven floors and contains commercial units on the four lowest, with a loft style apartment above, followed by an exquisite duplex-penthouse with a roof terrace at the very top. Shoreditch is no longer up and coming; it is already here, it is alive and it is buzzing. This part of London has been gradually transformed from an arty but gritty neighbourhood into one of the capital’s most desirable areas without having lost its charm. It was our aim to capture this special moment in time. The building sits in a conservation area and was used as offices. We have maintained the historical façade, refurbished a large existing skylight, exposed and enhanced some of the raw and industrial characteristics of the building and juxtaposed them with a very contemporary material palette. Unique conversions such as the Shoreditch Church Penthouse demonstrate that it is feasible to provide meaningful 21st Century living spaces whilst maintaining the embodied energy of an existing building
The building has gone through a substantial refurbishment over the last two years. Its historical front façade has been freed from some post-modern features. It has also been chemically cleaned to reinstate its original sparkle. All windows have been replaced with enlarged and minimally framed ones. They all feature high performance glazing allowing for an enhanced acoustic and thermal performance. Frameless glass balustrades have replaced chunky green steel tubes. All visible frame-work is made of bead-blasted stainless steel as homage to the internal industrial character. The threshold to the front façade has been lowered enabling a step free entry.
The existing structure has been exposed and altered into one of the key-features of the building in the shape of shot-blasted concrete walls and ceiling beams. This language has been enhanced with stainless steel staircases and smooth floor finishes. In order to complete this concept in detail a carefully selected colour scheme and feature finishes, such as foamed aluminium resin panels, have been applied. A matching high quality kitchen and adventurous bathrooms have been inserted as accompanying jewels to the scheme. Built-in joinery, both new and existing, provides plenty of storage capacity. A new mirrored and fire-glazed atrium has been inserted underneath a refurbished skylight to enable light to penetrate into the floor below. Double mirroring effects have been utilized for surprising views and an enhanced natural light distribution. Despite the industrial-ness of some materials an overall soothing atmosphere has been created.
The entire building has gone through a complete services overhaul. A subtle energy efficient lighting scheme has been implemented throughout. All fittings are of very high quality and most of them are dimmable. Air-source heat pumps and a heat recovery system provide sustainable heating and cooling. Other features include a home cinema, a steam room and ‘rain makers’ underneath skylights hovering over natural slate chip floors. A new lift enables a step free entrance to all levels.
The Living Space
The lofty main space is allocated on the fourth floor, completely column free and offers a fast amount of glazing to the entire Eastern and Western elevation making the space extremely open and light. Enormous sliding doors open up towards a balcony from which one can witness the liveliness of Shoreditch. The warehouse character is enhanced by a matt, smooth, seemingly joint-less rubber floor. Contrasting shaggy carpet inserts define zones of use within the vast open area. The solid walls are finished in a palette-matching vinyl matt emulsion whilst the ceiling shows off exposed shot-blasted concrete beams with suspended plaster board ceilings and flush recessed and backlit stretched ceilings in between. The latter correspond with the carpet inserts below. The centrepiece is a sofa which is semi-sunken into the raised floor and sits right underneath a glazed and mirrored atrium. The atrium allows natural light to penetrate into the otherwise deep floor plate. A TV is neatly tucked away into the ceiling and folds down on demand. The space also benefits from an existing 15 meter long full height built in storage wall which has been refurbished.
The open plan stainless steel kitchen adds to the sense of space: Its typical cooking activities are tucked away into the corner of the L-shaped main space whilst an abstract monolithic stainless steel block extends proud into the open space. From there one can enjoy the view past Shoreditch church towards the sunrise whilst sitting at the breakfast bar. A carefully selected acrylic stone worktop appears cementitious at a first glance but at a closer look also reveals polished glass segments adding depth to the surface. Back-painted glass splash backs and stainless steel handles compliment the finish.
A small private study can be reached via a resin panelled screen wall off the main living space. The panels contain a double layer of a delicate white fabric which triggers interesting optical effects when seen from different angles. The screen enables natural light to shine into the study whilst providing privacy at the same time. The other three sides of the space are ‘clad’ in a bespoke desk and shelving system which, once filled with books, will deliver a new surface.
The upper floor is reached via a bespoke stainless steel grating spiral staircase. Whilst subtly sparkling in the daylight it also casts interesting shadows across the smooth surrounding surfaces. Fully glazed and situated within a semi-circular bay which cantilevers over the floors below the vertical route is accompanied by dramatic sunset views across the rails towards central London. The cantilevering steps and their heavy but see through balustrades add to the drama. Once arrived at the upper floor one discovers the glazed and mirrored atrium and its adjacent alcoves. One alcove contains another stainless steel spiral staircase leading onto the roof terrace via an openable part of the massive skylight. The other is simply a discrete snug offering an opportunity to read a book under the glass sheltered sky. It is the combination of both alcoves and the mirrors of the central atrium that provides the extensive light flood to the floor below even on a dull day.
The entire ceiling of the upper floor consists of an uncovered and shot-blasted concrete soffit and the large refurbished skylight giving the bedrooms a raw but light atmosphere. The discrete full height wall-to-wall wardrobes are made of handle-less (push release) high-pressure gloss laminated panels. Their featureless surface and reflectiveness sits in stark contrast with the other materials. The bespoke beds are seemingly cantilevering off their head boards. The master bedroom bed sits in the centre of the room and butts up against a free standing shelving unit. The back of the shelves is clad in foamed aluminium panels which have been encapsulated in clear resin. Apart from the intriguing surface qualities of this material these panels also allow light to filter through in both directions depending on the time of the day.
The finishes in the bathrooms are an elegant continuation of the rubber finish on floors and walls in combination with silver riven slate strip tiles. The master bathroom is spilt up into three areas: A basin zone which is open towards the bedroom, a separate discrete WC and a playfully large wet room. The latter contains a bath tub which is semi-sunken into the raised floor and a gigantic rain maker shower head which hangs suspended at high level underneath the skylights. Natural slate chips complete the apparent outdoor shower experience. The stone chips sit flush but loose against the adjacent floor finish with all the drainage hidden. The second bathroom sports the same dramatic features but just on a smaller scale.
The Amenity Spaces
New amenity spaces have been created on the fourth floor and the roof top: The existing balcony along the Eastern elevation of the fourth floor has been completely revamped. An existing upstand has been removed enabling level access, all the finishes have been updated, frameless glass balustrades replaced appalling looking green steel tubes, fixed planting and external lighting has been installed. Most notably the space can now be fully opened up towards the main living space blurring the boundary between to in and outside. Planning permission has been obtained for a new roof top terrace. Despite the large skylight a generous area has been provided thanks to a compact and acoustically enclosed mechanical plant area. All materials used are a continuation of the palette found elsewhere in the apartment: Two types of slate tiles, slate chips, stainless steel balustrades and integral stainless steel planters. The outdoor space offers spectacular unobstructed views across London.
The Communal Parts
The communal parts consist of a new dedicated entrance lobby, a new accessible lift, an existing refurbished staircase and lobbies to each floor. They have been provided as part of the refurbishment of all other floors (which was also carried out by Space Group Architects). The entrance lobby is highly visible to street thanks to the fast amount of glazing and minimal framework. The generous space consists of a fair faced concrete lift core, large mirrors, exposed sandblasted concrete beams and a smooth polished concrete floor with an inlaid mat well. It is also here where one can find an exciting back-lit feature wall made of the same foamed aluminium panels that have been used in the penthouse. Illuminated in the evening it changes its appearance from silver perforated to black with light sparkles penetrating its surface which can be seen from street level. A new lift has been inserted into the existing shaft again utilising the coherent palette: A silver slate floor, stainless steel components, an illuminated foamed aluminium ceiling are all enhanced by a double mirroring effect.