Ex-council house transformation

VATRAA, Bermondsey, 2020



Photography by Jim Stephenson     Download Original

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The project turns an 80 sqm London ex-council house into a home with a distinctive character, now proud to tell its story through space, light and materials.

The tight budget constraints and the old building's unappealing character were seen as a catalyst for practical, creative solutions. Sustainability and cost reduction came hand in hand. Reducing waste and minimising cost required a surgeon-like approach, first investigating the existing structure to remove the unnecessary parts only while keeping any new additions to a minimum.

As a result, the design was stripped to its essentials. The original structural joists are now exposed to resurrect the spirit of the old house, bringing authenticity and time into the design while also increasing the headroom. By opening up the entrance lobby to the pitched roof, a tall volume now occupies the core of the house, making a tight space feel grand and inviting.

To highlight the qualities of space, light and textures, the finishes spectrum is limited to only three, complementary materials. White painted ceiling joists, and whitewashed oak flooring are tied together by a plaster finish that reacts in the presence of natural light. The bespoke solid oak furniture completes the composition through warm textures and crafted details.

Respectful of the appearance of the council estate, the house is humble on the outside while leaving the surprise for the inside. Sustainability did not come with artificial measures but with practical solutions that gave a new life to a disregarded building. The result demonstrates that, if fully embraced, the constraints and specifics of the project can lead to surprising solutions grounded in the actual context we operate in.

Annual CO2 emissions data (requested in kg/m2/year) was not provided.


  • Begun: Oct 2019
  • Completed: Mar 2020
  • Floor area: 80m2
  • Sector: Residential
  • Total cost: £120,000
  • Funding: private
  • Tender date: Aug 2019
  • Procurement: JCT MWD 2016
  • Address: William Ellis Way, Bermondsey, SE16, United Kingdom

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