Contrast is key for Belsize Park architects LBMV’s home extensions
- Credit: Archant
Belsize Park-based Italian architect, Luigi Montefusco, 36, founder of LBMV architects, specialises in providing modern extensions for period properties.
“The contrast is the best. Seeing the original features untouched, with the damages of the years visible next to the brand new, minimal, modern.”
The firm has worked on many North London properties since it was set up nearly five years ago and Montefusco believes that the nature of Hampstead is particularly well-suited to his philosophy of old and new co-existing.
“I like Hampstead because the land moves, it’s not flat, there’s more organic morphology. It reminds me a bit of Italy, everything’s not regular, it’s a surprise.”
The particular element of surprise he is referring to exists behind the uniform facades of streets of period houses. Modern planning regulations may prevent most alterations to the fronts of these houses, but step out the back and a whole world of contemporary variety awaits.
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“You’ve got these secret gardens with the most beautiful pieces of contemporary architecture ever, and it’s hidden and it’s private.”
Montefusco’s extensions are utterly contemporary – he describes his basic formula as a glass box – and are miles away from the classic suburban conservatory.
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This is hardly surprising from an architect who cut his teeth working with world-renowned hi-tech architect Norman Foster.
Montefusco spent three years at Foster + Partners, working on grand scale public buildings and office developments all over the world before he decided that his heart lay in smaller-scale, domestic architecture.
One of his flagship projects is an extension on Wolsely Road in Highgate for which he created a fully bespoke garden, lighting and kitchen design to work with the house extension.
Frederique Tan, who commissioned the renovations to her Victorian family home in 2012, says, “We’re enjoying our extension – it’s very bright and spacious.
“Luigi was able to work within the perameters of the council and did all the planning applications.”
As well as basic extensions, LBMV works on full interior renovations of terraced houses, as well as basement extensions.
These can be controversial but Montefusco sees it more as a way of making the most out of the best feature of large North London townhouses: the garden.
“You escalate a bit of the garden so that upper floor flats can enjoy it and then in the basement you have these James Bond flats, hidden behind a glass wall over two floors. They get some greenery and the layout can be very flexible.
“And, of course, you can’t excavate all of it, so you create a little courtyard. It’s nice, like in the Mediterranean where people live very close together but then there are these surprising courtyards where people put one tree.”
Montefusco’s respect for period houses seems rare among contemporary architects but is perhaps where the influence of his upbringing in conservative Southern Italy shines through. He moved to London ten years ago, partly for the adventure but partly because “I love modern architecture so in the South I was a bit on my own.”
The freedom and openness of London have fed into his interactions with his clients. As Tan says, “he allows you to put some creativity into your living space. He’s a gem among architects.”