The owners of this modern home (opens in new tab) lived across the road from the former timber storage shed and originally bought the site to prevent it being overdeveloped. Nestled between rear terraced gardens and a row of 16 West London garages, the single-storey shed didn't look like much – but then the new owners spotted a unique opportunity, and brought on board architecture firm De Rosee Sa (opens in new tab) to help them build something extraordinary, while keeping in line with planning regulations.
As the site neighbours 21 other properties (and has 21 party wall agreements in place) it couldn't have any windows on its outer walls, so the architects found a creative solution and gave the property three courtyards instead, filling it with light. As they couldn't build up due to regulations stipulating a vertical limit to the height of the property, they dug a basement instead which receives natural light from light-well courtyards. De Rosee Sa completely transformed the site, building a modern family home in its place.
The architects did an absolutely tremendous job, not only creating a beautiful home (the owners loved it so much that they sold their original house and moved here instead) but snapping up the New London Architecture 2017 Homes Award (opens in new tab) in the process too.
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The architects started from scratch, building a brand new two-bedroom house from the ground up for a total of £450,000. The property is clad in red cedar wood, a nod to the site's history as a timber storage yard.
The ground floor is divided between a modern living room (opens in new tab), kitchen and bedroom with an en-suite bathroom (opens in new tab). The master bedroom (opens in new tab) is located in the basement level with its own external courtyard and bathroom. Inserting windows into the boundary walls was not possible due to privacy issues and instead De Rosee Sa were faced with the conundrum of lighting a narrow 37-metre-long site.
The internal walls of the courtyards are clad in Western Red Cedar battens, referring to the site’s history as a timber storage yard. The battens continue inside to form two cedar clad ‘volumes’ that contain smaller functional spaces such as the toilet, study and utility / laundry room (opens in new tab).
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Three external courtyards were added to the plans to draw in light, with a series of Crittal steel and glass doors (opens in new tab) installed to connect these courtyards to the interior and provide views through the entire length of the open property.
The textural quality of the cladding softens the minimal, white interiors and complements the steel framing and herringbone-patterned parquet flooring.
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The wood herringbone floor warms up a modern white kitchen (opens in new tab).
The kitchen and dining area feature floor to ceiling windows, and a balcony (opens in new tab) that looks down into the courtyard at basement level below.
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Across from this balcony (opens in new tab) is another narrow balcony opposite, which is part of the kids' bedroom (opens in new tab). Down below the master bedroom (opens in new tab) is visible, opening into the courtyard space. It demonstrates how a small courtyard space can feed light into four spaces at two heights; the kitchen, dining room, corridor and kids room above, as well as the master suite below.
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The house can be entirely opened up during warmer weather, blurring the line between the inside and out.
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Commenting on the project Max de Rosee, Director of De Rosee Sa Architects explained, “We worked very hard in the initial stages to convince the clients that developing this house was a risk worth taking. We had to convey its potential. We wanted to contrast the crisp white walls and ceiling with some strong materials so we spent a considerable amount of time considering the detail of the western red cedar battens and granite setts in the courtyard surfaces. The most satisfying aspects of the project is the top light that pours into the interiors and the long views through the courtyards. Once inside, you forget that this house is in London.“
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The kids' room (opens in new tab) lets in light both from a skylight above and from a narrow floor-to-ceiling balcony space that overlooks the downstairs courtyard.
White walls with white built-in wardrobes (opens in new tab) make this room feel light and bright.
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A seamless skylight in the bathroom creates a shower space with an indoor/outdoor feel.
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De Rosee Sa proposed a new basement level to meet the owners’ brief for a two-bedroom house.
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The master bedroom (opens in new tab) is located in the basement level with its own external courtyard and bathroom. The stairs feed straight into the bedroom via a doorless floor-to-ceiling doorway that brings in lots of natural light.
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The ensuite bathroom borrows light from the courtyard.
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The owners loved the finished result so much that they sold their original house, moving into this home – now dubbed The Courtyard House – instead.
Photography Alex James