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RISE AND SHINE

Ben Smith Architecture

5th Jan 2016

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Ben Smith Architecture is based in west London and was established in 2012. The practice focuses largely on residential architecture in central and west London, helping its clients to maximise space while creating interesting, stylish and usable homes.

Ben Smith is principal architect and his experience spans over a decade of working for large commercial practices before going it alone. The company that carries his name prides itself on not falling into the trap of being fashionable, giving creative energy to each individual project in response to the client and the brief. In recent years, Ben Smith Architecture has created basements, added additional floors to properties, built home entertainment rooms, swimming pools and gymnasiums, as well as managing single room and whole house redevelopment. The company is currently in talks over two new-build contemporary houses.

The practice is behind the redevelopment of this Westbourne Terrace property, so we got Ben's insight on the design. 

Ben, tell us about this property and your involvement?
This is a classic garden flat located at the southern end of Westbourne Terrace, close to Hyde Park. It forms part of a beautiful listed building, set back from the road, with its own private driveway. When we first looked at it with our client, the configuration of space had really poor circulation and no real connectivity between the rooms. We redefined this to make it work much better as a two bedroom home.

Were there any redeeming features?
Yes there were. It’s a handsome building in a great location. Although internally the space wasn’t overly welcoming, we could see its potential. The ceiling heights were really generous. The outdoor space was a wonderful hidden oasis with an established lemon tree. It also had its own private parking which was a real bonus. We knew that it could be something special if we dedicated time and good design to making the right changes.

Can you tell us about those changes?
The building is listed so we had to be mindful of that and also respect its heritage. What we wanted to do was create better lateral space and room for entertaining. We also wanted to make the outside space a more usable part of the home. To achieve this, we extended the rear closet wing to the side, creating an enclosed courtyard leading off the master suite and leaving a rectangular garden. This provided a new lateral living and dining space with three light sources and tall bi-folding windows opening onto the garden terrace. At the front of the property, we extended into the vaults to create an additional en suite shower room and laundry room. The property was completely reconfigured and refurbished throughout, with underfloor heating, engineered oak flooring and a new fitted kitchen, new bathrooms and wardrobes. Given its listed status, and the fact that all of the works were subject to planning and listed building consent, as well as freeholders’ consent, the new additions and achievements of the design are quite remarkable.

What was your overall concept for the interior layout?
The overriding idea for the flat was to create a series of interlinking rectangular spaces with direct and indirect relationships. For example, the master suite is formed by four rectangles, each with double door openings between them, ending with the square that forms the private courtyard. The living spaces have a more open, informal relationship with each other, leading from an open pantry through the kitchen and into an open plan dining and living room across the width of the garden. The separation in these rooms is, in part, defined by the ceiling’s articulation of the existing and new extension.

How long did the entire process take?
The development process on this property took approximately nine months including permissions. We consulted with the planners beforehand and so achieved all of the necessary permissions first time around. We also worked with exceptional builders who delivered the project on time, with only a few weeks extension for some additional damp proofing works.

What was the biggest extravagance in the process?
Additional space. This is what the project was all about, that and perfecting the layout. Consequently, a large proportion of the client’s budget went towards structural alterations and good materials. Getting it right has really paid dividends and increased the capital value of the flat.

How do you like to spend time at home?
I’m rarely at home as my other big hobby is cycling. My wife is Croatian and a fellow enthusiast so we spend a lot of time criss-crossing countries on two wheels. Last summer we spent two weeks cycling across Italy which was incredible.

Where do you live and what do you love about the area?
I live in Brook Green in West London. I love the area as it has great proximity to the river and my other love is rowing. It’s also really easy to get to Richmond Park which is great for weekend cycling without leaving the capital. I also really enjoy walking to Portobello Market at the weekend. It’s got to be one of the most incredible eclectic and interesting markets in the world.

What can you not live without?
We live in one of the busiest cities in the world so quiet secluded outdoor space to relax and unwind is very important. Without it I think we would all go slightly mad!

Ben Smith Architecture; bensmitharchitecture.com