ELLE Decoration (UK)

High definition

Built into the side of a hill in a leafy north London conservati­on area, this RIBA award-winning home combines cutting-edge architectu­re with playful touches

- Words EMMA LOVE Photograph­y HENRIK KNUDSEN

This family home in London won a RIBA prize. Its owners share the best things about living in an architectu­ral masterpiec­e

‘We wanted a home among the trees, somewhere the

kids could run around,’ says Oscar-nominated film director Mehdi Norowzian as he recalls how he, his wife Elli and their three children, Elika (16), Maani (10) and Matissa (nine) came to live in north London’s Fitzroy Park, a conservati­on area located a stone’s throw from Hampstead Heath. The couple bought a 1950s house here eight years ago and knocked it down to make way for their dream project: a 556-square-metre four-bedroom home with a generous open-plan living space. The result, created with architectu­ral practice Stanton Williams, is so innovative that it scooped a prestigiou­s RIBA London award in 2014.

The sloped angle of the plot was the starting point for the design. The building cuts into the hillside and its glass-framed entrance hall has privileged views over the treetops. The huge open-plan basement living area, which includes dining and kitchen zones, leads directly onto a manicured lawn through tall glass doors. The top floor, meanwhile, is cantilever­ed above the garden, with each of the bedrooms benefittin­g from its own balcony.

A sense of playfulnes­s runs throughout the interior: push one of the minimal wall panels that line the entrance hall and it pops open to reveal a cosy secret cinema; nudge another to access the family’s office. ‘ We like houses to have fun elements,’ says Mehdi. ‘Maybe we’re chaotic as a family, but we love properties where everything is easy and integrated.’

The natural surroundin­gs influenced the interior of the house as much as its architectu­re, and Elli (who trained as an interior designer at Chelsea College of Art) guided the design from the start. ‘ We used a lot of mid-tones instead of white, with plenty of texture so that our home is warm and comforting.’ she says.

The couple also love to entertain, especially outside in the summer, surrounded by the rockery and a soothing water feature. ‘ You ask yourself why you commit to the process of building a house and the answer is quality of life,’ says Mehdi. ‘As we drive up the lane to our home, we can feel the stillness. All that you can hear is the sound of the birds – and that makes us happy.’ stantonwil­liams.com

‘WE LOVE DOUBLEHEIG­HT ROOMS AS THEY ALLOW YOU SPACE TO BREATHE, AND OPEN ZONES ARE PERFECT FOR ENTERTAINI­NG’

‘YOU ASK YOURSELF WHY YOU COMMIT TO THE PROCESS OF BUILDING A HOUSE AND THE ANSWER IS QUALITY OF LIFE’

‘WE USED A LOT OF MID-TONES INSTEAD OF WHITE, WITH PLENTY OF TEXTURE SO THAT OUR HOME IS WARM AND COMFORTING’

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