The interior as a simple, pristine container

A simple white container is perhaps the best way to describe the interior of this narrow victorian terrace. With a mere five metre width to play with, architects AIGP adopted a minimalist approach to create the illusion of generous volumes.

THE EXISTING SINGLE STOREY VICTORIAN terrace required a major overhaul to suit the needs of the current owner. The facade was largely off-limits to alterations — the building being in a conservation zone — and the original front room was sound, with a fine fireplace, and well worth keeping. But the remaining 30-year-old extension was quite dispensable, its timely removal creating space enough for an extensive revamp to the rear of the building.

The client briefed architects AIGP to design a two-storey addition incorporating two bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining/living area, bathroom, en suite and outdoor courtyard. To comply with local heritage conservation requirements, the addition had to be invisible from the street, and had to respect the scale of the surrounding terraces. On an allotment measuring 27 metres by five metres, the challenge was to fit everything in without compromising space and quality of light.

The architects describe the interior as a “simple, pristine container”. Interior elements such as the stair and much of the kitchen have been concealed or recessed to increase the sense of space and reduce visual clutter. In the living area the white walls are deliberately spartan, creating a reflective expanse broken only by vertical supports spaced at wide intervals along the north wall, and a series of full height panels along the south wall. These large pivoting screens conceal the stair when closed, and open to reveal extensive understair storage. Essentially, the doors function as a wall, a balustrade and cupboards.

Against a background of simple white painted and laminated surfaces, some carefully chosen pieces of furniture provide bursts of colour and visual focus. A bold red chaise placed in front of the glass doors in the upstairs bedroom makes a particularly striking statement. Crisp, elegant contemporary pieces of furniture demarcate the dining and living areas and innovative feature lamps add sculptural interest here and at the top of the stairs.

In this minimalist setting, lighting plays a crucial role in bringing warmth and personality to the interior scheme. Concealed in-floor and overhead lighting is placed asymmetrically through the kitchen and living area, illuminating the space in an unusual and captivating way at night. Soft shafts of light from the floor illuminate the walls and ceiling, while the down lights cast a glow on the polished floorboards.

Flooring textures are the other main element in the interior scheme. The dark-toned timber floor in the living area is free of rugs and other visual impediments, while upstairs a neutral carpet is a softer, more restful solution for the main sleeping quarters. The folded aluminium plate stair acts as a contrasting link between the two flooring styles.

This pared down interior relies on intangible, ever-evolving elements such as the intensity of natural light and the changing colour of the sky to create moments of visual drama. The success of the interior is based on the less-is-more adage: in an environment such as this, one special piece of furniture or a well-chosen lamp can have maximum impact where it would be lost in a more complicated setting.

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