Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Open House London 2014

Last weekend, over 800 buildings opened their doors across London as part of the annual Open House weekend. From the smallest private residences, to the largest skyscrapers, from behind the scenes access to Cross Rail and other engineering sites to walking tours of London streets, it's like having the keys to the city for two days, and all for free! I was volunteering again this year, meaning I spent most of Saturday manning the door and the queue to a converted Victorian workshop in Mile End. Volunteers are crucial to the success of the event and it's great fun meeting like-minded architecture and interior nerds, as well as having the huge pay off of having a volunteers badge, meaning you can queue jump at the majority of buildings taking part. So while Saturday was mostly work, Sunday was all play as I cris-crossed the city visiting the 6 properties (and one bonus) on my hit list.

This year I stuck to residential buildings, and most were owned by the architects who built them. Needless to say, these spaces are not your average homes and are most definitely aspirational, but they can also provide some real inspiration as well, even for renters. 

Coborn House - Mile End
OK, so getting practical inspiration from this one was tough! Above is where I volunteered. The space was incredible and very high spec, but what I took from it was that it felt well planned. The chairs on the landing were very traditional, a great foil for tall the straight lines of the architecture, but they were also upholstered in a very similar fabric to the sofa, offering continuity through the space and each window sill had a statement vase or piece of sculpture placed in the centre. It felt like a considered space and very calm. I also loved the Venetian plaster on the back wall of the building. If I was given free reign I think I could replicate the look (if not the feel) with paint.

For more information visit Clear Architects here.

Winkley Street - Bethnal Green
At the end of my volunteering day I hopped across to Bethnal Green to see another house before heading off to Tent and SuperBrands in Shoreditch. As you would expect from any architect owned house, this two bed terrace was far from ordinary and there's no way I could replicate this in a rented home. However, the bright living room rug and the artwork on otherwise plain walls are easy to adapt, as is the minimal but effective styling on the balcony. Three pots os differing heights and a bistro chair and table set looked stylish and gave plenty of space to enjoy morning coffee or dinner for two. The crisp white bed linen and uncluttered bedroom also gave an air of hotel chic.

More on Kirkwood McCarthy Architects site here.

Hard Working House - Goodge Street
This house was had a tiny footprint, with narrow stairs to each floor but with white walls and small groups of family photos at key points it felt airy and inviting. The kitchen was spec-ed up Ikea one and although you might not be lucky enough to have a kitchen as pristine as this, clean, clear worktops and wood accents to contrast with the white finished worked really well. The little vignettes around the house also added interest and everything was impeccably displayed! 

Visit Urban Projects Bureau site here.

Leamington Road Villas - Westborne Park (bedrooms)

Leamington Road Villas - (living spaces)
This basement flat in West London was my favourite of the whole weekend. It had everything, polished concrete floors, exposed brick, a stunning garden and lots of texture. The hard floors and pristine walls were offset by statement rugs, warm wood furniture and industrial but luxurious elements. The use of the modular sofa to help zone the open plan kitchen/living/dining space was very clever and the garden planting was kept to just green plants, both easy to do in a rented space. I also liked the floor standing shelf at the foot of the guest bed, creating a display area out of otherwise unusable space. In fact, the layout of that room could translate to a lot of rented rooms, giving maximum floor space while still accommodating a double bed, desk and wardrobes.

For more on Studio 1 Architects visit their site here.

Foxley Road - Oval
A one bedroom end of terrace duplex in Oval, owned and renovated by an architect couple who lived in the property while they undertook three years of renovations. I loved the dramatic use of black in the hall, living room and bedroom. You might not be able to do this with paint but dark rugs, accessories, furniture and curtains could all help achieve the look. The bedroom was black and white, with pops of yellow in the form of the bee cushions, honey pot, dresser handles and a round rug. Both the bee/plant theme and colour helped pull the room together and make it feel polished but not overdone. The mirrors behind the bedside and general use of reflective surfaces throughout the house helped trick the eye in to reading the space as much bigger that in actually was.

For more photos and information visit the architects page here.

Golden Lanes Estate - Exterior of Basterfield & Stanley Cohen Houses

Luckham Apartment - Basterfield House, Golden Lanes Estate
After some earlier renovation, many of the original features of this maisonette had been removed and on the day of Open House so had most of the owners things. The lack of possessions make it easy to appreciate the space on an architectural level, including the original floor and open tread stair case, but I found it hard to see how someone lived in it and how they made use of the space. After seeing so many pristine spaces, I was starting to wonder where everyone kept their stuff.The kitchen was a minimalists dream but I did wonder if the owner feels like he needs to eat his toast over the sink, every crumb would be visible! That said, I would love to live here I could look at those stair treads all day. 

More on Diamond Architects site here.

Bayer House - Golden Lanes Estate
This wasn't on my list of places to visit because somehow I missed it on the itinerary planner on the app... but I saw the queue from the window of luckham apartment so I headed there after. Unlike the Luckham Apartment many of the original features in this maisonette were still intact.  What I loved about this home was that it has such warmth and personality. Real people live here (not that architects aren't real people...) and the flat was full of their collections and artwork made by the owners. It was colourful, eclectic and completely unselfconscious. I loved the layout of the living room and the narrow unit on wheels that housed the owners vinyl collection cleverly made use of every inch of space. The tall ceilings were both highlighted and the space made to fell less empty by hanging pictures vertically, and by having a huge quadriptych going up the stairs. If you have the space, be bold with what you put on your walls!

For more information on the Golden Lane Estate click here.

3FloorIn2 - Portobello Road
This triple floored space, inside a double height apartment was fun. Utterly impractical but fun. It reminded me that your home should make you smile, it should make you grin from ear to ear when you walk in the door.

See more images from the project by Andrew Pilkington Architects here.

New House - Arsenal
Built on the end of a row of terraced houses, this completely new build had a single story height restriction, there was certainly no lack of space though! I loved the use of contemporary antiques, like the Ercol dining and side tables to offset the slate coloured ceramic floor. I also liked the display space in the bathroom and the painting on the wall proving that bathrooms don't have to be clinical spaces.

Tallulah, a very friendly and most coordinated resident!

For more information visit Studio 54 Architects site here.

It always amazes me that so many people are so generous in opening up their homes for the weekend, while hoards of strangers troop around taking photos. All the owners, residents and architects were so happy to chat and answer questions, from very technical inquires about the practicality of building to where they bought their cushions form.

For more information on OpenHouse click here
For sister organisation OpenCity, go here.
For information about voulteering, click here.

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