When architects Emma and Ross Perkin bought their three-storey Victorian house in Stoke Newington, they knew they would need to reconfigure the kitchen and living areas.
The layout was a muddle. The basement kitchen was dark and damp, the bathroom was oversized, having been installed into a large bedroom, while the small garden was disconnected from the living spaces.
“It was a complete state, so it took a bit of vision,” Emma explains. “There was a lean-to with a semi-outdoor loo, and different rooms had been let individually as bedsits.”
Today the house is completely transformed.
A dark, gloomy bedroom at the back of the house has been altered into a light and airy kitchen, the new heart of the home.
While Emma and Ross are cooking they can keep an eye on their two young children in the adjoining play area, which has views across the garden.
Bringing the outside in
By adding a two-storey rear extension they have created an interlocking kitchen/dining “garden room” and, on the floor above, a light-filled family bathroom.
A contemporary take on a Victorian-era “outrigger” extension, the addition allowed the creation of a large, L-shaped kitchen and dining space, interlocking with an L-shaped garden, to form a whole.
Big sliding corner doors, hand-built from solid oak by maker Jonathan Read, lead out the courtyard.
“The doors define the threshold between inside and out, and allow the spaces to become unified into a single garden room,” says Ross.
“We like to avoid using standard off-the-peg products as much as possible. It’s not necessarily more expensive. If you use local craftsman carefully, they can make the most amazing stuff.”
The heart of the home
For the kitchen they’ve used the carcasses of Ikea units and spent money on textured MDF doors from Valchromat in rich, deep blue, along with a stylish worktop from GEC Anderson and an integrated stainless steel sink.
The floor is polished concrete, where the aggregate is exposed for a crafted feel.
A half-height blue wall screens the stairs from the kitchen proper, while a splash of colour is provided by a large canvas by their artist friend, Ben Crawford.
“A big, open space can be hard to inhabit but if you have pockets of space, you can have different types of activity,” says Ross. “It’s a more human, cosy way to live.”
The play area’s bespoke window seat overlooks the garden. There’s a Viabizzuno pendant light and the kids’ drawings and photos are pinned up on a Forbo bulletin board.
“It becomes quite a theatrical space. The kids spend quite a lot of time doing plays here.”
Apart from the kitchen doors and windows, all joinery in the house was designed, built and installed by the couple.
“Ross’s dad is a carpenter. We have a little workshop and we like building things.”
The sense of continuity with the original house is heightened through the use of continuous water-struck brickwork to the extension and garden boundary walls.
“We sourced the bricks from Danish brickworks, Petersen Tegl. They’re cut with water so you get this slightly handmade look,” says Ross.
An award-winning partnership
The couple met while studying architecture in 2001 at the University of Edinburgh.
Both were involved in a student project to build a nursery in Romania with charity Voluntary Design & Build. The scheme won an Architects Journal Small Projects Award in 2009.
Later they co-founded Emil Eve Architects in Stoke Newington E8, with a focus on contemporary design in historic and urban contexts.
Half their work is residential but their projects include the competition-winning scheme for a new music production centre in a Grade II-listed church in Brighton, and Jiva Spa and Wellness Centre at St James’ Court Hotel in Westminster.
Their house is in a conservation area so getting permission for a two-storey extension was always going to be a challenge, but Ross has experience in heritage settings and conservation.
“As a contemporary practice we do a lot of work with listed historic buildings and complicated planning.”
Personalising the space
Emma is a keen landscaping designer, so the courtyard is styled as a dense, jungle-like space set with benches and planters. “It’s a lovely space to lounge and have a drink.”
They were living in a tiny flat down the road when the house came on the market three years ago, moving in when son Tom was only two days old.
In the first-floor sitting room, they installed a slate hearth, fixed the skirting and had the original plaster coving restored.
“We found neighbours who still had the original coving, measured it and found a company that matches historic plaster designs. As soon as it went up, it felt like a room again.”
A sideboard from Emma’s granny sits alongside slab-built ceramics made by Emma herself. There’s also a series of tailors dummies: “Emma’s mum used to work for Vogue.”
Artworks by architect-trained Nigel Peake and by David Nash were bought by Ross when he was working with Feilden Fowles architects on the visitor centre at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
The Ikea sofa has been revamped — “a Swedish company does new covers you can buy” — and the outsize light is from Made.
Work began on the extension in October 2018 and took eight months.
On the upper floor of this new space, a compact family bathroom features dual-aspect views towards mature trees in adjacent gardens. “When you’re lying in the bath, you’re looking at the sky.”
A range of solid oak cabinets has been integrated with the window frames and recessed into the walls.
“The original bathroom was huge and shabby with a normal bath sitting in the middle of the room as if it was a freestanding bath,” Emma shudders in recollection. Today the old bathroom has been converted back into a handy spare bedroom.
The master bedroom is all white. “We’ve added secondary glazing which helps with heat and noise from the street.”
The kids’ room is fitted out with bunk beds that are a mash-up of Ikea and bespoke joinery by the architects. Animal illustrations by family friend Molly Martin decorate the room.
It’s an exemplary modern intervention which respects the original Victorian architecture, without slavishly recreating it.
And though the children are still young, the couple are keen to future-proof their house.
The original basement kitchen has been turned into a self-contained flat, with a shower, kitchenette and its own front door.
“It’s a flexible space that could be rented out, or we could have a lodger or one of our parents could live there one day,” says Ross.