ELLE Decoration (UK)
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
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’