As anyone looking to buy, let alone build, a house in central London knows, space is at a premium. However, the best architects have a way with planning and light that can make the most of even the most unpromising site. That was certainly the case with this house in Notting Hill by Gianni Botsford Architects. The site was well known to the design team — Botsford’s own home is in an adjacent 1840s villa — and its potential was obvious. Previously occupied by a 1960s bungalow accessed via a narrow passageway, the architect drew up plans for a new house that dug down into the site.
Once the scheme was completed and permission finally granted, the project was sold to a client seeking the perfect private retreat. However, over the eight years it took to finalise, finesse and complete the design, their circumstances changed and the building is now on the market. Despite this direction change, Botsford saw the project through, staying true to the original concept.
From outside, House in a Garden is concealed by its copper-clad roof, an elegant swooping inverted funnel that gives little clue as to what lies beneath. Inside, the complex roof structure has been left exposed, a skewed grid of laminated spruce, computer-modelled to create a double curvature that concludes in a roof-light, or oculus, at its peak. Pre-fabricated in Italy, the roof came to the site in eight pieces and was craned into place. The entire structure appears like a single object floating above the ground floor living space, thanks to glass walls that make the most of the densely planted gardens and maximise light as well as privacy.
From this living and dining space, the journey takes a downward turn, with two additional levels sunk deep into the ground, culminating in a swimming pool on the lowest level, some eight metres down. Botsford’s main challenge was getting daylight into the depths of the 247sq m house and the practice used digital modelling to seek out the most efficient use and placement of roof-lights. The first basement contains the bedrooms, while the 10m pool adjoins another living room, with lightwells ensuring that sunlight even reaches the water.
Materials were a key focus and copper is used extensively for its warmth and reflective qualities. On the ground floor, there is a shimmering copper-clad kitchen, while the lower you go, the earthier and more unprocessed the materials become, with Carrara marble walls in the pool area and Douglas Fir joinery and staircases.
The lower you go, the earthier and more unprocessed the materials become
Botsford describes the project as a “unique set of constraints and opportunities”. From the tent-like roof down to the cavernous basement, House in a Garden is a self-contained world in the heart of the city.