Once a warehouse, formerly a school house and finally a house to call home. The Defoe Road project was a personal development idea from Paper House Project; a London-based architecture and design studio set up by James Davies in 2014.
Davies cleaned up the building’s brickwork, inspired by his belief that moods, well-being and happiness is all shaped by the things that surround us. As a passion project, the blank slate allowed him to play around with the incredible height and structure of the building. Choosing bits of the puzzle that fit, and adapting others at will.
The project wasn’t about maximizing profit.
From the designers:
Our priority was to retain as much of the existing building as possible and to bring it back to life, opting for double height space over floor area as the project wasn’t about maximizing profit.
Crittall windows are installed to provide a sturdy and strong frame, with beautiful natural light streaming into the space. This worked out well, as it was eventually sold to an artist who bought the house because of the incredible natural light. Now she uses the space as a studio.
One of the biggest difficulties of the project was accessibility.
The building is a mere stone’s throw away from a busy Hackney High Street, a currently popular and trendy London district. While not always so trendy, it has always been busy. Around 15 years ago, buildings began to pop up around this one, leaving it “landlocked” with little accessibility to the street.
Falling into disrepair, the building had been used as a storage area since. Davies’ determination to bring water and electricity services meant digging up turf and arrangements across third party land, after careful negotiations with leaseholders and freeholders in the surrounding properties. But the results have proved worth it.
The room downstairs is a bedroom, with a door launching straight out to the courtyard. Also, the perfect spot for a home office or studio space that looks out to the world?
The kitchen and living room are combined in one big open plan area on street level.
A monochrome palette offers a simple backdrop for mealtimes, and the timber’s figure is a gorgeous wave of ripples.
Perfectly angled, the lighting and tables balance out the room either side of the double-height windows. A pitched roof ceiling becomes a prominent feature, catching your gaze and lengthening the room.
A nook is carved out for studying, with eco-friendly materials in a soothing tone.
Keeping it an open plan living area was simple to do, given the great shape of the structure. From the living room you can access a bedroom and bathroom, with a staircase for a master bedroom upstairs.
I love the panels in different materials which act as a backdrop to the sofa, and provide the framework for the upstairs floor plan.
I myself had the loft bedroom, growing up. I’ll admit I wasn’t particularly good at waking up in the morning, but I didn’t have the same light streaming through a skylight like in this room! Skylights provide more than enough daytime light to make sure this room stays well lit.
The room is easy to maintain, thanks to its minimal fixtures and fittings. The bathroom boasts a full bathtub in close proximity to the bedroom, tucked beneath the gabled roof.
What advice would you give yourself looking back at the project?
We underestimated the complexity of bringing services (water, electricity, data) across third-party land. I’d have prepared myself better had I known how stressful it was going to be.
Going from dark and dingy to bright and breezy takes a lot of effort, but the results are simply stunning.
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*This article has been amended to further clarify a comment from the artist’s interview.