Haptic House

Haptic House

Haptic House is a renovation of a Grade II-listed Victorian dwelling in Hampstead to meet the changing needs of a young family. With its concern for simple, natural materials intended to age gracefully over time, the project is underscored by the concept of wabi-sabi, a Japanese aesthetic code which stresses the beauty of imperfection and transience.

The original house was an unmodernised, four storey semi-detached villa in a Conservation Area. The project focused on extending the rear of the building and remodelling its various floors, with only minimal changes to the historic frontage. Inverting the conventional relationship of living and sleeping spaces, the ground floor is converted into a master bedroom and the lower ground level transformed into a fluid, open-plan living, dining and kitchen space in direct contact with the garden. The topmost storey is remodelled to create a pair of identical home offices, with back-to-back children’s bedrooms on the first floor.

Reinforcing the connection between daily life and the presence of nature, the lower ground floor is excavated by half a metre so the garden is at eye level. A crisply detailed frameless glass extension augments the living space, enhancing light penetration and garden views. Glass is employed structurally, as columns and beams, while motorised aerofoil louvres made of cedar protect the delicately diaphanous butterfly roof from glare. A central gutter channels rainwater off the glass extension on to a ‘staining wall’. Sluiced by rust-impregnated rainwater interacting with tadelakt, a traditional, lime-based Moroccan plaster, the appearance of the wall will evolve over time.

The transition from inside to outside is defined and expressed through different manifestations of stone. Individual York stones are inset into a specially mixed terrazzo which forms the floor of the living space. This ‘stepping stone’ path flows out into the garden, extending up a cantilevered staircase crafted from solid stone, designed to emphasise its monolithic quality. Looping around the garden, the meandering trajectory is marked by reclaimed sleepers made from Azobe hardwood. Its focal point is the Suspended Shade, a dramatically cantilevered timber structure which functions as a discrete pavilion for contemplation and entertaining.

Ground and lower ground floors are linked by an immaculately detailed timber staircase featuring a wafer thin balustrade of laminated glass capped by a slim bronze handrail. This forensic yet poetic attention to detail extends to every aspect of the remodelling. For instance, the book-matched oak veneered doors enclosing the long storage wall in the main living space were exceptionally complex to produce, making intense demands on the craft skills of specialist joiners. Equally, the Spathroom on the first floor is a tour-de-force of highly considered detailing and fabrication. Inspired by Japanese bathing rituals, the outcome is a sumptuously sensual bathroom lined with teak and slate to create an intimate, womb-like enclave for washing and relaxing.

As the clients work from home, the upper storey is brought into play to provide two identical offices. In a twist worthy of an espionage novel, small secret rooms are inserted behind twin libraries, controlled by electromagnetic locks that can be concealed in the spine of a book.

Rigorous emphasis was placed on the selection of materials and how they are put together and experienced. Natural materials, such as York stone, oak, teak and slate were chosen as they have an inherently warm, haptic quality that responds to touch. A bespoke blackened, unpolished patina resembling dark bronze was applied to all ironmongery and metal fittings. Silky smooth clay plaster and rough exposed brickwork add further textural and visual richness. Embodying a crucial tenet of wabi-sabi, materials are intended to be subtly transmuted by the passage of time, weathering beautifully through use and the slow patina of age. [By Catherine Slessor*]

Contract Value £1.6m
Location Hampstead, London
Client Private
Date 2011-2015
Area 474m²
Design Team Paul McAneary Architects
Design Service From design concept to detailed design through to end of construction, material creation, lighting design, glazing design, landscape design, planning
Consultants Gareth Atkinson, William Dick TBC
Main Contractor Symm
Sub Contractor Simon Heslop, Paul Davies, William Garvey
Supplier Lazenby, tadelakt, Delta Light
Press 2018 ‘Paul McAneary Architects’ dlist Verified
Awards 2017 Designer K&B Awards – Won Bathroom Design of the Year (over £15k) with Spathroom 2016 The UK Property Awards – Highly Commended for Best Architecture Single Residence London 2015 The Wood Awards – Finalist for Interior Design of the Year with Spathroom