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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Hidden House by Alan Morris Architects

Hidden House is a Grade 2-listed host house, owned by an author and her husband. Architect Alan Morris has transformed the secluded garden spot and revealed an independent living retreat.

Hidden House sits discreetly at the far end of the client’s 200 ft garden in North London. When architect Alan Morris was first shown the site, an old Romany style caravan occupied the tranquil setting, once used as a writing studio. The secluded garden, filled with birdsong and darting squirrels, became an important inspiration for the eventual design.

The south-facing site is a slender strip of land, measuring roughly 30 by seven metres, bounded at its northern extremity by a fine brick wall dating from the early 19th century, originally the boundary of a former convent that adjoined the site. To the west, a flanking wall separates the new house from a housing development, the length of this wall dictating the extent of the new scheme’s upper storey. A similarly high wall to the east marks the termination of the gardens of Victorian houses in an adjoining street.

The tight and highly constrained site, with no light or openings permitted on the new structure’s western elevation, dictated a linear elongated plan that was articulated into three massing elements. The single storey kitchen and living room flank a two-storey central element matching the height of the closest house on the western boundary. The plan was then “cracked open” to create a dynamic in its relationship to the long passageway on the west and to allow a full height window on both floors looking north. The design celebrates its open southerly aspect with a generous glazed entrance that seamlessly leads from the garden approach into the heart of the new dwelling, with kitchen, dining area and living space presenting as one continuous enfilade.

Photography by Fred Howarth
Photography by Fred Howarth

The client, who grew up in the main house, required a separate home for himself, with living accommodation at ground level and a bedroom plus an additional guest room-cum study on the upper level. Planning permission was achieved in early 2017 and the new house was completed, including landscaping, in Summer 2020.

The architectural concept was to ensure the new timber-framed structure sits modestly and discreetly within its constrained setting. A weeping pear tree marks the pedestrian access point to the new building and its delicate pale green foliage inspired the choice of the upper storey’s subtle green zinc cladding, complementing the pale, dappled grey/white Petersen D72 brick.

Client’s view, “The brief to our architect was to create a light and spacious home. The house is open plan with three sections – a kitchen, an eating area, and at the back, a cosy space for a sofa and television – all linked by a polished, concrete floor. Green eco roofs, solar panels and an air extracting heat pump have ensured the project meets the council’s eco-friendly criteria. Although only a minute’s walk from Kentish Town tube, it’s a wonderfully quiet and peaceful spot.”

Photography by Fred Howarth
Photography by Fred Howarth

The plan is deliberately dislocated so that the east wall splits away from the rear volume with views to the north to allow a tall two storey continuous slot window. This dramatic incision on the east wall breaks up the overall massing and allows interesting oblique views from inside the house, while the interlocking zinc/brick surfaces add further visual articulation. Sliding and folding Vistaline triple-glazed entrance doors ensure generous daylighting, this sense of transparency further accentuating the seamless flow of interior volumes at ground level. The longitudinal section of the house is stepped, with the sloping roof of the rear volume enabling a 5-metre wide strip window to be created, bringing south light into what is otherwise a north-facing bedroom.

Photography by Fred Howarth
Photography by Fred Howarth

The house was designed to have high green credentials. The timber superstructure is constructed using high quality Swedish softwood and is insulated to provide a wall U value of 0.15, reducing heat loss and achieving an “A” energy rating substantially in excess of building regulations. A 2kw Ochsner fully internal heat pump provides underfloor heating, and solar PV panels on the upper flat roof and 5KW of battery storage help to reduce grid consumption. Two green wildflower meadow roofs have been planted front and rear – on top of the kitchen and sitting room to the rear. Two drainage systems for “dirty” and “clean” water with a 1500ltr Graff Platin shallow tank reduce mains water consumption by feeding “clean” rainwater back to the WC’s, washing machine and irrigation of green roofs. The ground level polished concrete floor (pigmented white) has a high thermal mass to optimise the underfloor heating system.

Photography by Fred Howarth
Photography by Fred Howarth



Builder – T. J. Quinn Carpentry

Structural Engineer – Form London Engineers

Environmental Engineer – Alan Arnott – Studio Nine

Landscape – Joshua Allen

Zinc Roofing – PMF Roofcraft

Foundations/Piling – Groundsun

Heating – Ochsner heat pump / Groundsun

Polished concrete – Polished Concrete Company

Windows – I. D. Systems

Rebekah Killigrew
Rebekah Killigrewhttp://www.rebekahkilligrew.com
Editor | ww.architecturemagazine.co.uk | www.interiordesigner.co.uk

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