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How 3 zinc boxes turned Dartmouth Park flat into striking family home

PUBLISHED: 12:33 10 March 2020 | UPDATED: 12:44 10 March 2020

Richard Keep and his daughters in the living space, which forms part of the two zinc boxes on the new third storey. Picture: Tatiana Keep

Richard Keep and his daughters in the living space, which forms part of the two zinc boxes on the new third storey. Picture: Tatiana Keep

Archant

Architect Richard Keep transformed an ‘ugly duckling’ in Dartmouth Park with some clever design.

The Dartmouth Park property with its zinc extension. Picture: Ben BlossomThe Dartmouth Park property with its zinc extension. Picture: Ben Blossom

Unless you're lucky enough to be in possession of a very large bank account, finding a spacious and stylish home in north London to accommodate a family of four isn't easy these days. 
For architect Richard Keep, the solution was to find potential where others didn't. In 2018 he came across a pokey two bedroom flat on the first floor of a two-storey 1930s corner property in a conservation area of Dartmouth Park.

'The building looked like the ugly duckling on the street,' he explains, 'all the other homes were three storey, and grander, so this one, really stuck out at the end. It also had UPVC windows, unlike most of the other properties which have wooden sash windows.'

With a bit of love and some clever design, thought Richard, this unassuming flat, could not only become a wonderful family space for him, his wife and their two young daughters, it could also improve the aesthetics of the overall building.

The couple soon put a deposit down, and Richard started planning. He decided that the best way to make the building compliment its neighbours was to increase its stature by adding another level. But instead of trying to make the extension look exactly like its neighbours - difficult to achieve, especially as it wasn't built in the same period - he designed another level made of two zinc boxes, with a further box sitting on the existing lower level. The modern style, he hoped, would provide an interesting contrast between the new and the old.

One of Richard's daughters in the dining area of the extension. Picture Ben BlossomOne of Richard's daughters in the dining area of the extension. Picture Ben Blossom

'Thankfully the council and those living nearby were happy with the design,' Richard says. 'It's a conservation area so getting permission for developments isn't always easy, but as people thought the building wasn't attractive before, they were happy for us to improve it. There was one stipulation; we were asked to change all the upvc windows to wood, even on the ground floor, which we don't own, and we agreed to this.'

After nine months of work, the extension was complete and the family moved into the spacious new property. The lower level of the apartment now has an extra two bedrooms, while the kitchen and living space has moved to the upper floor which enjoys gorgeous views of the area, including Highgate Hill.

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'The kitchen and living area is where we spend most of our time so it made sense they sat on the top floor where we could add lots of windows. It was the right decision; we love being there. It's bright, the views are great, and the light that comes in in the evenings is lovely.'

The new roof terrace. Picture Ben BlossomThe new roof terrace. Picture Ben Blossom

The upper level even has its own roof terrace and a balcony. 'That's made a real difference - to have some decent outdoor space.'

The risk with creating a box-style extension, is that the interiors can be a little lacking in character. To avoid a clinical feel to the upper level, Richard fitted wood-panelled storage cupboards, painted white. 'Just having the wood panelled storage stops it from being too minimalist. I wanted it to feel homely and I think it does.'

To top it all off, last month Richard learnt their home had won a prestigious award, Best Urban Oasis, at the Don't Move, Improve! 2020 awards, which celebrates impressive home improvements across the capital.

'They had about 100 entries and whittled it down to 25. Out of those, five were chosen as winners of five different categories, including us! Was great to be recognised.'

The dining area looks out onto a balcony. Picture: Ben BlossomThe dining area looks out onto a balcony. Picture: Ben Blossom

Asked what he loves most about his home, Richard says its proximity to the Heath is a pretty big plus. 'Being near the Heath is amazing. We feel very lucky!'

For more on Richard Keep's architecture firm visit richardkeep.com and on the awards go to newlondonarchitecture.org.


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