‘Apartment Block’ is an impeccably hand-crafted, two-storey apartment, designed as a solid piece of joinery that is ‘inserted’ into an existing building. The home’s main living and circulation spaces have been carved out of over 30,000 individually cut and laid cross-section blocks made of European Oak.
Located within Kingsway Place, the same estate as our RIBA award-winning Hidden House, the building is Grade II-listed and part of Clerkenwell’s Conservation AreaIt was originally built in 1892 by T.J. Bailey and was converted from a school to residential and commercial use in 2000.
To create ‘Apartment Block’, we began by stripping away all non-original features, including everything that had been inserted in the conversion. The envelope is left open and bare to retain the drama and history of the space and they have maximised the sense of openness, light and spatial quality by cleverly reconfiguring the existing mezzanine over the huge double-height living room.
Behind the living area (and below the second storey mezzanine) sits a contemporary kitchen and a flexible dining room, which can be converted into a second bedroom when necessary. There are sliding pocket doors to this space, letting light soak deep into the plan and exaggerating the size of the space at the ground floor. These doors can be closed off as needed. A staircase, which has been moved to the side of the plan for efficiency, ceremonially leads up to a study area that looks back over the double-height space and is screened off from the master bedroom behind beautifully crafted, Japanese-inspired sliding screens.
REVEALING A HISTORIC SPACE
The existing flat was dark and cramped with a convoluted floorplan and there was no celebration of the spaces’ historic features. Our work revealed the past whilst celebrating the potential of this as a modern home.
The three-metre-tall original sash timber windows now are featured in the main living space, with ornately crafted opening shutters lined with translucent linen to allow light in whilst still maintaining privacy.
AN ORCHESTRA OF SHADOWS
The shutters filter sun from the south-facing windows during the day and streetlamp light by night, casting an orchestra of shadows on the walls of the double height living space, ever-changing and moving throughout the day.
A NOD TO HISTORY
The main space celebrates the original Victorian features, including windows, glazing and cornicing.
A sliding pocket window panel to the kitchen can be closed off as needed to offer privacy to a flexible dining room/ snug area.
A GRANULAR RICHNESS
The new timber blocks create a granular richness of delicate light. They were individually hand cut and laid and now cover most of the space, including flooring in the living room, kitchen, and flexible dining room on the ground floor, and the office space on the mezzanine level.
CLOSED / OPEN
Japanese-inspired sliding screens separate the bedroom from the desk area and double height space. They can be left open to let light in across the mezzanine or closed to provide privacy with blackout fabric.