Home working has led our readers into producing some innovative ways of reorganising their space.
With the prospect of many people who are now working from home never going back to being office based, Homes & Property has launched a series looking at ways of permanently transforming your home — or areas of it — into ideal working space on a small budget.
No one did it better than William Bracewell, Royal Ballet First Soloist, who worked with architect Anna Parker to create an ingenious home and dance studio from his 388sq ft flat, costing just £10,400 for the entire project.
Flats in the brutalist estate are highly sought after and also listed, so permission is needed for any work. So the dancer approached Parker, of Birmingham-based Intervention Architecture. They’d met when he lived in the city and was with Birmingham Royal Ballet.
When Bracewell asked her to collaborate on his first London flat, Parker says: “It was one of those calls you get that you jump on, excited for such an opportunity.”
They discussed how the space could be remodelled, “so he had confidence in what he could achieve with the small budget he had left for the project after he had bought”.
Parker drew up detailed designs “for a cost-effective, clever solution that would essentially create different zones for living, relaxing, working and sleeping within the space”.
The major part of her solution was a piece of birch plywood furniture that transforms from a bed to comfortable seating, to a dining table, with room for storage, books and ornaments.
Ballet dancers have hugely demanding schedules, so she knew the last thing Bracewell needed was to have to tackle a complicated folding bed after performing late at the Royal Opera House.
Making life easier
“We made sure it’s quick to assemble and de-assemble. Because we designed in the thickness of all the quilting and the bedding, it goes from bed space to upright soft seating area in around two minutes,” she explains. “He can do this with ease every day.”
A ceiling-height storage unit integrates the fold-down bed and a library-style bookshelf. Bench seating is revealed when the bed is folded up against the wall.
A flat-pack table — which normally hooks on the wall as a decorative surface — can also be slotted in, with fold-out prefabricated legs. This is where Bracewell eats and works.
“He also does research for his roles, so we integrated bookshelf storage.”
Alongside dancing with the Royal Ballet, Bracewell recently made his film debut in Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words, playing Romeo opposite Royal Ballet Principal and Cats star Francesca Hayward as Juliet.
To make space for dancing, the bookshelf and bench seating can be moved to another part of the room. Built-in drawers and folding cupboards are concealed in the plywood wall, to store pillows, bedding and seat cushions.
The wall is lined in pink marmoleum — “a family member of lino but more sustainable” — to complement the clay table top and blue soft felt seats.
There are also small bedside niches for lights and phone chargers. All key pieces, including the bed, can be moved around the flat.
“I made a moving drawing for William showing the eight different ways the furniture can be placed within the layout,” says Parker.
The colour scheme of modernist blue and pink softens the raw concrete and exposed woodwork of the Barbican building.
The doors of a cabinet that came with the flat have been repapered behind tinted glass. A sofa by Hem completes the pared-down look.
Parker and her team sent the drawings and cutting files to joinery company, Windinghouse.
It was, she says “an example of the remote working and delivery of projects we are all doing now, and will be increasingly looking to in the near future”.
Windinghouse installed the joinery in the Barbican in a day, as it was designed to exact measurements off-site.
Small budget, big change
First off, the architects got rid of “this perishing dark brown felt carpet” and commissioned new flooring for the living space: a thin, engineered light oak to complement the birch plywood.
The flat’s original Barbican kitchen has been refreshed, stained lino flooring was removed and a grey marmoleum floor installed.
Because of the existing concrete slabs and underfloor heating, only thin flooring materials could be specified.
“We had to work with very constrained thicknesses to ensure we worked with the existing space.”
In the bathroom, cabinets were retained and restored, while tiling was refurbished with a new dark grout.
Parker founded Intervention Architecture five years ago to offer an interdisciplinary way of working across design, interiors, furniture, temporary structures, exhibitions, lighting, homes, and mixed-use developments.
The practice specialises in getting the most out of small budgets. Previous projects include a garden room for a botanist and a “micro coach house” for a writer.
“We enjoy learning how the person engages with their own life — this can really drive the project.”
And now, with the Barbican commission, she’s renovated a flat in a Grade II-listed landmark to create a light and airy space that’s perfect for a dancer.