‘I like houses to be a se­ries of un­fold­ing sur­prises’

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

of a decade – via plan­ning hold-ups (it took two years and an ap­peal to get per­mis­sion), neigh­bours’ ob­jec­tions and con­struc­tion de­lays – to fin­ish the job.

The tiny plot, just 22ft wide, dic­tated the shape of the house. “We had to have a park­ing place at the front, so to com­pen­sate we ex­tended the up­per floors out to­wards the pave­ment, which gives it the ap­pear­ance of a ves­sel in dock,” says Rus­sum. The whole of the up­per two floors was con­structed in a fac­tory and the pieces craned into po­si­tion. The lower sec­tion, built from grey en­gi­neered bricks in­filled with con­crete and sup­ported by steel beams, acts as a plinth for the up­per storeys.

“I like houses to be a se­ries of un­fold­ing sur­prises,” says Rus­sum. The first is Sally’s study on the up­per ground floor, with a glazed back wall that opens on to a full-width ter­race over­look­ing the gar­den and trees beyond. Sally, a re­tired in­te­rior de­signer, cre­ates de­signs for her wood sculp­tures here.

They had to dig into the hill­side of the slop­ing plot to cre­ate their four­storey home. Two en suite be­d­rooms are “be­low decks”, on the lower ground floor, and the main bed­room is flooded with morn­ing light from slid­ing doors that lead straight on to the gar­den.

The nau­ti­cal theme spreads through the house, with de­sign de­tails such as steel wiring along the stair balustrades and a port­hole win­dow in the cloak­room. The wow fac­tor re­ally kicks in when you emerge into the main dou­ble-height living area, suf­fused with light from both ends. On the street side, the stairs con­tinue up to full-height glass doors open­ing on to a roof ter­race, but the gar­den side has the pièce de ré­sis­tance. A float­ing con­ser­va­tory is sus­pended above the living space; it has a cir­cu­lar yel­low floor and a curved blue struc­ture that is part seat­ing and part planter filled with trop­i­cal fo­liage. The glaz­ing curves up into a dome ceil­ing, with views over gar­dens, trees and the city.

“It’s like sit­ting in a tree canopy up here,” says Rus­sum. “It’s a great place to come for a sun­downer, and at night you can see the moon very clearly. This is a small house – 1,345 sq ft – but I wanted the main living space to be as grand as pos­si­ble, so we de­voted the two up­per floors to open-plan living and made it dou­ble height.” The fur­ni­ture in this space is be­spoke, de­signed by Birds Portch­mouth Rus­sum, Rus­sum’s firm, with ideas from Sally. A win­dow seat curves against the wall, as does the sleek white kitchen, and hid­den stor­age is in­cor­po­rated neatly through­out the house. The bench near the front door dou­bles as a stor­age box and an ice bucket is built into a side cup­board.

“This is a great house for sum­mer par­ties, ev­ery­one spreads out onto the ter­races and up into the con­ser­va­tory,” says Rus­sum. The fi­nal out­door space is a bal­cony jut­ting out from the living space, sus­pended over the gar­den like the prow of a ship.

“We call that the Kate Winslet bal­cony,” says Cox, “as in Ti­tanic.” This house fea­tures on Grand De­signs: House of the Year at 9pm on Tues­day Nov 14 on Chan­nel 4

Mike Rus­sum and Sally Cox, main, bought the plot at auc­tion in 2006 but it took a decade to com­plete the job

The ‘Kate Winslet’ bal­cony pre­sides over the gar­den like the prow of a ship, right; the house has views of High­gate Wood, above

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.