CHELSEA TOWNHOUSE NO 1

This project has involved the complete remodelling and extension of a five-storey Victorian terraced house in Chelsea, including the excavation of an additional basement level beneath the footprint of the house, front vaults and most of the rear garden.

The house had been extensively ‘chopped and changed’ over the years, including various 1970s accretions, so the opportunity existed, planning permitting, for a complete internal rebuild; only the front façade and roof now remain of the original.

It was realised from the outset that, since the houses on this side of Glebe Place are, at five metres wide, quite long and narrow, the staircase should be relocated to the middle thereby allowing for full-width rooms to front and rear. It was also realised that the principal living floors (ground, lower ground and basement levels) should be opened-up, connect with the rear garden, and enjoy as much daylight as possible.

This has resulted in a double-height living room at lower ground floor level with aligning twin tall openings on opposite sides. On one side, the openings house structural glass ‘guillotine’ windows by Vitrocsa, which lead to the garden. On the other side, the openings house a monolithic concrete staircase with a stepped soffit, which gradually wends its way down from the Entrance Hall.

Vistas have been opened-up from front to rear, and the sculptural staircase and matching polished concrete floors help tie these areas together. A backlit built-in sculpture, by the Georgian artist Tamara Kvesitadze, featuring moving silhouettes of the owners and their family, is located within the central pier in between the twin staircase openings.

A couple of steps lead down from the Living Room to the kitchen, located at the front of the house beneath the Entrance Hall. Mirrored cabinets on one side provide discreet storage whilst increasing the illusion of the space. A yellow glass ‘canopy’ ceiling and backsplash act as an intimate foil to the double-height Living Room. A section of glass ceiling in the bay window provides a visual connection with the Entrance Hall above. A lobby off the kitchen leads to the front lightwell and steps, and the ‘back’ staircase.

The formal dining room is located at the foot of the main staircase at basement level. This features a coffered ceiling, a large aquarium, and a recessed area of black lacquered panelling with a skylight and wine cellars to either side. Mirrored sliding doors open onto a sitting room located beneath the rear garden. At the far end of the sitting room, a backlit artwork, also by Tamara Kvesitadze, terminates the vista from the aquarium.

The basement corridor, which doubles-up as a picture gallery, leads from the Dining Room to various ancillary accommodation including two lavatories (one
of which looks into the aquarium), a utility room and a maid’s suite. The aforementioned ‘back’ staircase, connecting with the kitchen, is located at the end of this corridor.

From the ground floor Entrance Hall, a laminated timber staircase with structural glass balustrades leads to the three upper floors, culminating in a roof terrace. By introducing a shadow gap around the outside edge, the stair appears to ‘float’ and feels more sculptural/less bulky than it might have done otherwise. A plane of grey polished plaster running up one side of the stairwell adds to this effect and continues the concrete ‘palette’ from the lower levels.

The first floor is devoted to the Master Bedroom suite. A spacious bathroom with white and grey polished plaster walls, a ‘tadelakt’ freestanding bath, a low-level panel with inset moss, and twin maroon-coloured wall-mounted glass vanity units is located at the front, with the bedroom at the rear. These spaces are connected via a corridor lined with grey lacquered wardrobes and wall/ceiling panelling incorporating recessed track-lighting. Dinesen douglas fir floorboards run in one section from front to rear.

Two bedroom suites and a roof terrace are located at second floor level, and a large open-plan playroom/bedroom at third floor level, with extensive build- in wardrobes incorporating a central ‘bar’ recess. The staircase terminates at a large ‘flat’ skylight, which slides open mechanically and affords access to the main roof terrace with panoramic views of Chelsea and beyond.