Alma-nac were approached by a young couple in order to investigate the possibilities of maximising their slim plot on the busy high street of St John’s Hill, Clapham, London. The uniquely narrow proportions, measuring just 2.3m internally throughout, presented certain challenges in terms of organising the spaces.
It is understood that the location of the property was the original stable access to the rear of the adjacent public house. The resulting narrow proportions meant that the centre of the plan was potentially dark and gloomy. There was also a stark contrast between the noisy north facing front of the plot and the tranquil south facing rear. These issues were coupled with a strict budget within which to work; the property had been re-valued since the original purchase and the bank loan was based on the difference of the increased value.
The neighbouring property, an art gallery and studio at ground level and apartment above, had extended almost to the full depth of the plot with a terraced rear facade. An immediate response might have been to continue this form with a series of terraces forming the new rear facade. However, the complexity of constructing multiple terraces and roofs meant that this option was deemed prohibitively expensive as well as proving problematic in terms of bringing light into the centre of the plan.
A response to this was to form a continuous slate clad sloped roof creating a simple and easily understood construction method. This material treatment is continued on the rear facade and reflected in the slate shingle ground cover of the rear garden. In order to enhance the sense of space within the newly formed rooms the floor plates at each level were cranked, allowing an increased floor to ceiling height and encouraging light to penetrate deep in to the plan. A light-well was formed over the central stair by opening up the ceiling to the sloped roof. This allows natural light to flood deep in to the plan at first and second floor levels and provides a natural stack effect when the roof lights are opened. The brick flank ‘book end’ walls are left exposed at the top of the stairwell to convey the original context of the site.
A key consideration was storage space and every corner of the property has been utilised, from the bed-head with integrated storage, loft space over the top bedroom and compact bathroom layouts. The elongated form of the main bedroom at first floor level allowed for the creation of a dressing room area so that the bedroom space remains uncluttered of furniture. The design of the roof build-up ensured the minimum depth (250mm) in order to maximise the space internally and achieving a high U-value (0.14 W/m2K).
The staggered window pattern on the rear elevation plays with the scale. The roof lights are organised to allow views through to the exterior along the corridor side and to illuminate the top section of the sloped ceiling.