The ar­chi­tec­ture of hap­pi­ness

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

They say you shouldn’t bring your work home with you. Ar­chi­tects Rus­sell Pot­ter and Laura San­juan took this adage se­ri­ously – and lit­er­ally – when they em­barked on the trans­for­ma­tion of their three­floor Vic­to­rian town­house in Clapham, south Lon­don, where they live with their two chil­dren, Is­abella and Os­car.

The cou­ple are known for their de­signs of Soho House branches in Greek Street and at nearby Ket­tner’s Town­house. The lat­ter is char­ac­terised by a dark, deca­dent look packed with tweeds and mar­ble; the cou­ple’s first per­sonal project at home could not be more dif­fer­ent.

With its bright white looks and large slid­ing glass door, they have been asked more than once if their goal was to cre­ate an homage to a cool Ibiza villa. “That wasn’t the plan,” says San­juan. “But we can see why peo­ple ask.”

De­spite such a clear sep­a­ra­tion be­tween their pro­fes­sional and per­sonal de­sign styles, Pot­ter and San­juan have used a few clever tricks picked up from work­ing with bar and restau­rant clients, such as Polpo, in or­der to cre­ate an at­mo­spheric yet min­i­mal­ist fam­ily home. The tri­fecta, they say, is back­ground mu­sic, dim­mer switches and a ban on all non-es­sen­tial door han­dles.

The Stripe House is so-called be­cause of the pas­tel-coloured tim­ber ba­tons wrapped around the perime­ter wall. It is ruth­lessly un­clut­tered – par­tic­u­larly in the kitchen, where a util­i­tar­ian style un­der­pinned by cool whites and greys pre­vails. The aes­thetic could not be fur­ther from the comfy, cosy look pre­ferred by many clients they work with through their prac­tice, Soda Stu­dio.

“There are so many things we have learnt from de­sign­ing for the bar and restau­rant sec­tor that we have used to cre­ate a vibe here,” says Pot­ter. “Sound and light are two easy ones to get right.

“I don’t think peo­ple re­alise what an im­por­tant role sound can play in a home. We al­ways have some­thing on in the back­ground hooked up to the speaker.

“Then light­ing: have dim­mer switches ev­ery­where. That is so im­por­tant, es­pe­cially in a sim­ple, straight­for­ward space. You need that to cre­ate a dif­fer­ent mood.”

But what about the hard graft that went on be­hind the scenes ahead of these fin­ish­ing touches? Pot­ter and San­juan bought their house in May 2013 for £918,000 and the work took 18 months and £170,000. The join­ery was the most ex­pen­sive el­e­ment of the process, as it had to be made be­spoke. “It was worth it for the stor­age be­cause we were able to do things like run the cup­boards along the walls even in front of the chim­ney breasts,” says San­juan

“I also didn’t want any han­dles on any­thing that didn’t need one. They get in the way, kids can bang their heads on them, you get your clothes caught on them. Not hav­ing them cre­ates a much cleaner line. The han­dles we did need we had sprayed to match the join­ery.

“There is very lit­tle in this house that is mas­sively so­phis­ti­cated, which is why it works,” adds San­juan. “It is sim­ple, straight­for­ward and not overly planned. The fur­ni­ture we have is here be­cause we like it. We didn’t try too hard to match it all.”

For those out­side the de­sign world who are look­ing to cre­ate their dream fam­ily home, the cou­ple ad­vo­cate the power of per­spec­tive and prag­ma­tism.

“It is def­i­nitely much more emo­tional when it is your own home,” says San­juan. “We had a re­laxed faith, or maybe it was a blind faith, that ev­ery­thing would come to­gether in the end,” adds Pot­ter. “And that point about not des­per­ately try­ing to match things is an im­por­tant one. Peo­ple come here and say ‘how did you think to put that over there or that with that?’ The truth is, we didn’t. We just saw what worked where.

“My fi­nal piece of advice would be to pri­ori­tise. We fo­cused most of our at­ten­tion on the parts of the house where we knew we would spend the most time. We eat around the ta­ble as a fam­ily, so the in­side/out­side kitchen and the liv­ing area was where we con­cen­trated, rather than a guest bed­room which will be used twice a year.”

You should also be pre­pared for some of your best-laid plans to fall by the way­side, San­juan says.

“We cre­ated these two big steps down from the front liv­ing room into the kitchen be­cause we en­vis­aged the chil­dren sit­ting on them all the time,” she says. “Some­where for them to be with us in the kitchen but not at the ta­ble. They have not sat on them once.

“I sup­pose that’s the ul­ti­mate les­son with any project, whether it is com­mer­cial or per­sonal, there are only so many things you can con­trol.”

Rus­sell Pot­ter and Laura San­juan with Is­abella and Os­car

Is­abella, four, play­ing in the gar­den, be­low, and her bed­room, above

The house in Clapham, south Lon­don, has a min­i­mal­ist look

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