White Oak House

White Oak House

This radical remodelling of an apartment in a 1960s block in London’s Hampstead transforms a gloomy cellular interior into a set of fluid and light open-plan spaces. The client is Japanese, using the flat as a base for occasional trips to London, so perhaps such an approach of precise and elegant economy might have been anticipated. Yet the outcome has a formal and experiential resonance beyond the usual clichés of minimalism. The simple act of removing partition walls and adding new elements activates spatial relationships in new ways, and the material palette draws on natural textures to cultivate a studiedly neutral aesthetic.

In a series of controlled moves, the plan is deconstructed from its original compartmented arrangement and opened up to create a sense of tranquil spaciousness. The master bedroom now extends the full width of the plan, augmented by a large en-suite bathroom, a living area leading to a terrace and a small ‘secret room’ equipped with a vanity unit. The enlarged L-shaped living space combines kitchen and dining areas, the latter connected to a second terrace.

Freeing up the plan meant reconsidering arrangements for fire protection and this prompted the design of an ingenious pop-up fire lobby. If smoke is detected, an extra door is activated to swing into place over the main entrance to provide the necessary fire resistance.

Views and light are diffused through gauzily translucent blinds, which resemble contemporary versions of traditional Japanese shoji (rice paper) screens. These bathe the interior in a soft radiance, yet still suggest a sense of the surrounding parkland landscape. New bespoke elements frame and define space but are also multi-functional: for instance, an exquisite oak cabinet in the living room is both a bench and light fitting. White walls and oak are a recurring duality; other materials include honey-coloured travertine for the bathroom floors and bamboo decking for the roof terraces. Crisply cubic bedroom furniture was specially designed with table tops resembling veneer. However, like the travertine floors, they were chosen for their economy and adaptability, following extensive consideration of different samples.

The projects was run on a design and build contract, which meant that the practice controlled all detailing, construction and sequencing of trades. This gave it an invaluable insight into the practical and process aspects of interior remodelling, enabling it to deliver an outcome of the highest quality for the client. Such attention to detail, which included selecting all the furniture and fittings, creates a modern gesamtkunstwerk in the manner of Danish Modernist Arne Jacobsen, renowned for his all encompassing approach to design, where carefully considered individual parts coalesce to form a rich and compelling whole. [By Catherine Slessor*]

Contract Value £200k
Location Hampstead, London
Client Private
Date From – 2015
Area 474m²
Design Team Paul McAneary Architects
Design Service From design concept to detailed design through to end of construction, interior design, lighting design, glazing design, furniture design, survey,building control, 3D visualisation
Main Contractor Paul McAneary Architects
Sub Contractor Paul McAneary Architects