North London based XUL Architecture have recently renovated this light and airy family home in Highgate to allow for better circulation and light. And if there’s one thing I look for in a house it’s light and views. I call them ‘borrowed views’ when you can see tantalising glimpses into the next room. Views that invite you to enter and explore. And ‘open views’ when you can see from front to back with uninterrupted vistas of garden and trees.
Take a Look
Originally this home had multiple circulation issues with different levels and spaces flowing in an uncomfortable and disorderly manner. By addressing these issues, XUL was able to create a space that is usable and filled with light. Key to this was opening the views from the front door through to the garden. Ultimately drawing light in from both angles. (A signature to all XUL projects is to consider the three directions of light that can be channelled into the building; from above, back and front).
They opened up the plastic skylight above the stairwell and replaced it with a contemporary glass alternative which now floods the space with light. And they spent many hours talking to the homeowner and discovered their love of cactus. This colour and shape was brought through to the design adding character and a homeliness that turned the house into a home.
The entrance hall now includes a bench in place of the dining room door to allow for storage within this area and a wider uninterrupted wall in the dining room. And the living room has been opened up into the dining room with wide glazed doors. Sebastian Sandler, director at XUL explains that “the house was spread over three floors and after many discussions with the owners, we decided to relocate the master bedroom to the top floor and create a suite for them. This allowed for the middle floor to become bedrooms for the children and guests.”
The master suite comprises of a bedroom, bathroom and walk-in wardrobe. The bathroom is accessed via the wardrobe so that when the doors are closed it looks like typical wardrobe doors.
Maia Lemlij, founding partner at XUL describes “the master bathroom is definitely a highlight in this home, it is pretty much another hangout space. The bath takes central space under the dormer window and curved ceiling. It has a steam shower in addition to a standard shower.”
The kitchen flooring was created with polished concrete which was continued over the kitchen countertop. Together with the grey cabinets, this took on an industrial look which was warmed up with the clever use of plywood, terracotta lamps and pots, and decorated with greenery throughout. The room is filled with light from two sides and has a view to the front door.
The practice has gained a reputation for nurturing relationships through projects. XUL was invited to create a concept for this project as directors Sebastian Sandler and Maia Lemlij are close friends with the homeowners. This is a common thread with their projects as they work extremely closely with the owners and build even deeper friendships. “As long as you are honest and communication is always open, who can you trust more than your friends to have your interest at heart? It is nice to then get to enjoy their houses together spending time there” explains Maia Lemlij.
Restoring original features of the property was also a part of the brief to the architects. Reclaimed wood was used for the flooring within the refurbished living room. The music room or “green room” as the owners refer to it has built-in storage which was already present in the house from a previous renovation. The homeowner also enlisted the services of a fabric consultant who chose fabrics for the rooms to add colour and warmth to this lovely home.
The interior design was originally conceived by Philip Lihou from Inner Space London.