The Grim House

Checa Romero Architects, London, 2017

 

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The original house was a two-up two-down with a narrow strip of garden to the front and a larger square of ground at the back 

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  • The original house was a two-up two-down with a narrow strip of garden to the front and a larger square of ground at the back    
  • The lower half of the original façade is now muffled by a wall of vertical timbers    
  • The house is located off Brick Lane, London    
  • The bathroom    
  • Materials are kept to a simple palette of white plaster and concrete, Cor-ten and timber    
  • Curro Checa Romero was able to carve out an affordable alternative to the usual off-the-shelf refit with innovative uses of space and light    
  • Light floods down from skylights, or drops through lightwells worked into the structure    
  • The kitchen    
  • The stark white interior    
  • The staircase    
  • Floor plans    
  • Axonometric section    
  • Perspective section    
  • Front, rear and side elevations    
  • Lightwell detail section    

Checa Romero has transformed a 1980s terraced house into an adaptable, light-filled cabinet of curiosities.

The original house was a two-up two-down 1980s terrace with a narrow strip of garden to the front and a larger square of ground at the back. The front door opened on to a small hall, leading to an equally small kitchen on the left, while straight ahead was a combined living/dining room taking up the full width of the house at the back. A straight flight of stairs led to a tight landing with tiny bathroom sandwiched between two bedrooms, one to the front, one to the rear.

The lower half of the original façade is now muffled by a wall of vertical timbers, appearing like a stockade wrapping around it. The apparent solidity of this barrier is illusory, as it integrates a series of openings, concealed flush within it like an advent calendar. Rather than one front door, it now has two. The primary one is to the left, leading into a long, top-lit spine hallway, taking up the footprint of the previous side alley, off which the ground-floor spaces lead. A secondary entrance, where the old front door was, opens into a front room running the width of the original house, so that it can act as a separately accessed office if needed.

Meanwhile, a threshold grate in front of the right-hand entrance doubles as a security grille above a small lightwell. This drops down to a glazed door opening out from a new basement room, providing valuable light and fresh air. A small, built-in ladder provides an alternative means of escape in the event of fire. 

A new internal structure has been enabled: basement walls and ground slab of reinforced concrete supporting a steel frame. This frees up the interior plan, allowing for openings to be full-height, scrambling the sense of walls and doors and meaning spaces can flow easily together.

Concrete and Cor-ten steel cloaks the exterior of the rear extension. The rich colours of Cor-ten, creepers and glossy foliage, together with a water feature, gives a Mediterranean warmth and lushness to the courtyard garden, its greens and russets appearing all the more vivid in contrast to the bright white interiors.

Data

  • Begun: Feb 2013
  • Completed: May 2017
  • Floor area: 128m2
  • Sector: Residential
  • Total cost: £445,000
  • Procurement: Design and Build
  • Address: Brick Lane, London, E1 6QL, United Kingdom

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