London design agency Studio Carver’s extensions in Belsize Park shortlisted for architecture awards

Reading Room in Belsize park by Studio Carver

Reading Room in Belsize park by Studio Carver - Credit: Richard Chivers

When Keith Carver, founder of design and architecture practice Studio Carver, was asked by a couple to help them realise a dream project for their retirement, he immediately saw the potential.

Reading Room in Belsize park by Studio Carver

Reading Room in Belsize park by Studio Carver - Credit: Richard Chivers

The plan was to transform neglected areas of their outdoor space into an extension of their existing study, connecting it to the garden and welcoming as much natural light in as possible.

“It was an idea they’d been thinking about for a while,” he tells me. “As they were working from home more they wanted to unlock the house for their retirement.

“The nice thing was that it was very collaborative, and the client really pushed us to do something completely different, and not be limited by the material and palettes already on the building.”

That creative ambition is now being recognised, with the design having been shortlisted for the ‘Don’t Move, Improve!’ 2018 award.

Belsize House's timber frame extension

Belsize House's timber frame extension - Credit: Richard Chivers

The prestigious New London Architecture (NLA) competition, now in its ninth year, is recognised by Dezeen’s inaugural ‘Hot List’ as one of the world’s most popular design awards programmes.

It puts the Reading Room among 30 shortlisted extension projects from more than 200 family home extensions, studios and garden rooms which were submitted to the competition.

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The room is a light, airy study that has taken over space formerly occupied by forgotten pieces of the house.

“There was a back passageway that wasn’t getting much love, so we built right up against the garden wall. We wanted to use the space as efficiently as possible.”

As well as the timber clad and glass exterior, Keith and his team integrated bespoke furniture into the design, creating a bench that flows from the interior outdoors, extending the building line out into the garden, and also fitted bookshelves inside.

This integration was one of the key construction challenges, as it meant that the sequencing of the project had to be approached in a non-traditional manner.

“Some of the joinery had to go in earlier than you might ordinarily want – we had to map out every stage very carefully,” says Keith.

Though it was a concept that had been discussed with the clients over a long period of time, the building work took place over a four month period, with both the clients and Keith describing a great sense of accomplishment at the end.

Another Studio Carver project, meanwhile, was shortlisted for the Architects Journal Small Projects 2017 award and the Camden Design Awards 2017.

Keith and his team created an extension to a Belsize Park property, inspired by the sun-rooms popular in suburban American homes.

“By coincidence the clients are American, and so am I originally,” says Keith. “They approached us with images of sun-rooms. They are timber framed, with sash windows, and similar to the winter gardens you find in Europe. They have a very residential and domestic scale.

“It was an enjoyable process, to start from a very recognisable style and incorporate the scale and rhythm present among the Edwardian period properties along the street.

“Previously they had a traditional conservatory, which was single glazed and thermally very inefficient.

“The house is in a dense part of Belsize Park with small plot sizes. In the original conservatory you could sometimes feel like you were in a fish bowl. We exaggerated the vertical frames and that simultaneously dealt with some of the privacy issues.

“So in this case, less is more – we pulled back on the amount of glazing, with more controlled and protected views.”

Keith says that one of the most interesting aspects of these two developments is how closely his team has collaborated with the clients.

“We ended up with something we never would have without their input.”

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