The bespoke house
Handcrafted details and quality materials make this stunning new-build home in Bloomsbury a RIBA award winner
Take a look inside a RIBA award-winning new-build and read the architect’s guide to creating something unique
Anyone who watched last year’s Channel 4 television series Grand Designs: RIBA House of the Year will recall this shortlisted bronze-and-brick house in London’s Bloomsbury. It belongs to hotel consultant Peter Zenneck and his partner Troels Levring, a former architect-turned-developer. The pair were thinking of buying a traditional Georgian property nearby when they spotted a car-repair garage with planning permission to be converted into four flats for sale.
‘ We contacted the planner to ensure that we would be able to obtain permission to build just one house on the land, then put in a sealed bid,’ Troels says. ‘It’s such a glorious spot. A lot of sites in London are between two properties, but here the house feels detached because it’s on a corner.’ In 2008 the couple commissioned their friend and architect Jamie Fobert to work on the five-year project and, from the beginning, they formed a close collaborative team. ‘The architecture was all Jamie, but we pushed for a few things – a lazy client and architect does not make a good building,’ Troels says. ‘Having a rapport with Jamie raised the bar.’
A glance at the specifications for the 450-square-metre, four-floor house reveals why it was named a 2015 RIBA National Award Winner. From the façade of narrow, handmade, honey-hued Danish bricks that reveal the thumbprints of the craftspeople that made them, to the dovetailed corner of the exterior wall and the gleaming bronze roof, the beauty of this house is all in the details. Inside, concrete ceilings, walls and pillars serve as the backbone of the building and connect the double-height spaces that surround a central glass-encased lightwell. ‘Having so much daylight is the biggest luxury of this house,’ says Troels.
It’s not just the layout that is bespoke, though. The oak staircase in the corner of the open-plan house has a carbonised steel banister inspired by an artwork by Spanish sculptor Eduardo Chillida (a favourite of both the architect and the owners) and the trio travelled to Italy just to understand how different grades of Carrara marble might be used in the bathroom. Peter and Troels both work at home, with one office upstairs and the other downstairs. Troels’ study features specially made geometric window shutters divided into different sized sections, all of which open individually. Like functional works of art, they can be opened in many configurations to provide light or privacy. ‘I wanted the shutters in my study to be translucent, so we ended up designing a kind of Japanese shoji screen,’ says Troels. ‘The children from the nearby school like them; if I slide the main section open, they wave as they walk past.’
The couple have lunch in the kitchen or on one of the terraces and enjoy going for a swim in their very own luxurious marble-clad 14-metre indoor pool, which is situated in the basement. ‘ We imagined using the pool mostly in the morning, but we actually take a dip around 5pm, at cocktail hour,’ says Peter. ‘It’s a great way to end the working day.’
The beauty of this house is all in the details. The carbonised steel banister is inspired by the work of Spanish artist Eduardo Chillida
‘ We designed the house in layers, adding bespoke joinery as we went and ensuring there was the maximum amount of storage’
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