This project involves the refurbishment of an existing Grade II Listed house for the singer Boy George. The house was formed by the sub-division of a large Victorian mansion in the early 1950s. The original mansion was built in1868 to the designs of the architect JS Nightingale. Across both its exterior envelope and interior decoration the house is an idiosyncratic and eccentric mix of architectural styles and details.
The client’s house contained the original entrance hall with all of the rooms accessed directly from this space. The entrance hall has a unique character and atmosphere, highly decorative with many original features remaining present.
The client had two key requirements. He wanted a modern kitchen space, but also a more appropriate spatial relationship between the grand entrance hall and the kitchen. The original relationship between the two spaces had been altered by the sub-division to maisonettes, with entrance to the kitchen currently made through a low and narrow doorway tucked away under the grand staircase. A new, more appropriately scaled, opening between the two spaces is proposed, carefully positioned within an existing frame of decorative plaster in a more central location within the hall.
Within the kitchen space, unsympathetic additions and decorations are removed. Strong, simple and geometric forms are used for the new elements. These read clearly as new additions and allow the original proportions and decoration of the space to become evident. We felt strongly that these new elements should not simply be plain and neutral when read against the rich, decorative character of the original interiors. Instead, our approach is to use materials that possess natural variations in their surfaces, giving a richness of expression, even though the new additions are characterized by an absence of decoration. The new opening to the kitchen is lined with surfaces of deep blue Venetian polished plaster. This material has a finely textured smooth surface with subtle tonal variations that pick up the colour of the blue tiles present in the floor of the entrance hall. The polished plaster surfaces frame views between the entrance hall and kitchen spaces, creating an improved sense of connection between the two.
A dramatic cantilevering concrete element forms the centrepiece of the new kitchen. This is cast from visual concrete, pigmented with a subtle blue-grey hue. Beautiful wide boards of Douglas fir form the floor and fold up to create the stair to a mezzanine. The mezzanine is edged in brass with an aged, mottled finish. Together with delicate screens of slender brass rods, these provide a subtle gleam within the space.
Listed Building Consent has been granted for the proposal.