DHaus have refurbished a 2-bedroom maisonette to form a triplex home, extending into the loft of a period property in north London using digital design as part of the fabrication process.

Project name: Umfreville Road
Studio Name: The DHaus Company
Location: London, United Kingdom
Photography: Richard Chivers
Project size: 120 m2
Project Budget: £130000
Completion date: 2020
Building levels: 3

Umfreville Road by The DHaus Company - Sheet1
Kitchen ©Richard Chivers

The clients were brave and wanted to open up the existing property as much as possible, knock though as many existing walls and create double aspect open plan living. They also wanted to expand into the loft to give a whole new way of living in this house. One of the main requirements was to bring as much natural light into the dark interior core.

The house as we found it needed a full refurbishment. Small rooms interconnected and did not allow much light to enter into the deep plan – We dissect these period properties daily in our practice and each time we learn and explore new possibilities and techniques of construction.

The first thing one must do when doing a loft/refurb is suss out the route up to the new living floor, by figuring out the circulation successfully you can then really expand and develop the spaces. We created a double height space, so as you enter the apartment a giant frameless up and over glass window completely opens up to the sky. One feels like they are on a ship floating though the sky as all you can see are the clouds flying by.

To create the additional living space in the loft, we inserted a dormer roof extension. The existing building and others on the street also have turret rooves, and these often get overlooked when loft extensions are undertaken. To maximise space we inserted new steelwork into this turret area and created a giant triangular rooflight that allows one a unique perspective along the length of the street below.

Umfreville Road by The DHaus Company - Sheet2
Bedroom ©Richard Chivers

For some time, we have been experimenting with digital fabrication, harking back to the Dezeen MINI LIVING future housing competition and the ideas we submitted, where we proposed a fully automated CNC construction of period properties in London, either by actually fabricating period features to create old looking façades or to take existing period houses and then add digitally manufactured additions to them.

We wanted to test our CNC fabrication ideas by creating a plywood staircase, sustainable, and perforated that allows natural light to filter through the levels of the building. Efficiency of materials was also important in the design process, and we worked with the fabricator in order to ensure that the stair was cut from just two sheets of plywood then assembled offsite before being installed. We felt this was a good test not only this staircase but a whole loft floor. A huge inspiration for our work is an Architect called Taro Tsuruta.

He is also a good friend of the clients, he is a true master in architectural materials, space and light, we were lucky enough to have dinner all together with himself and the client, do things the old way and discuss and learn from his ideas in person. We talked about doing a version of his ply staircase and he was really supportive in these discussions. We look up to him and was amazing to have an open dialog with him and his work. He has since seen the staircase and was pleased with the end result.

To execute such an adventurous design, we needed experts and one of the most skilled outfits we work with are a team called Materialise Creative Design. They specialise in high-end prototyping and have a workshop full of goodies such as 5 axis CNC machines, thermo formers and laser cutters! A playground for young architects.

Umfreville Road by The DHaus Company - Sheet3
Balcony ©Richard Chivers

We have been working with Phil and his team for a while, they also fabricated the kitchens on this project with Velchromat cabinet handles and plywood facings so there is a different material finish on the handles to the surface panelling, like when biting into an apple.

In these bleak times of lockdown access to outdoor space has become not just a luxury but a necessity. We were able to gain planning approval for a large roof terrace set within the roof slop. The roof terrace also abuts the up and over glass skylight where one can look into the double height space from above.

“Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters”
― Francisco Goya

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