In 2016, East London architectural practice Russian For Fish was contacted by a couple who had just bought a mid-terrace property on Walford Road in the hope of starting their family. The house had been untouched for many decades, and needed significant refurbishment throughout. The owners were confident they could handle the lighter aspects of the work, but when it came to creating an open-plan kitchen/dining room extension that opened into the courtyard garden, they needed a specialist.
Reconfiguring or extending buildings like these can be a challenge; height restrictions are commonly enforced and rear access is rarely available, so all building materials have to fit through the front door - making substantial projects like this the architectural equivalent of keyhole surgery. With a track record of innovative residential extensions that optimise space and are sensitive to the existing architectural aesthetic, Russian For Fish was well placed to respond creatively to the practical constraints of the project.
Working to a budget of £ 85,000, the practice’s architects Pereen d’Avoine and Nilesh Shah developed a series of designs and models that accommodated the clients’ functional requirements and met their creative vision for the space. As well-travelled lovers of the outdoors, it was important to the owners that the new room carried a strong connection to the garden. The kitchen had to accommodate a cook of above average height (one of the clients was 6’ 4”) with raised work surfaces; and the family cat also had several requirements - including its own kitchen recess and a sunlit window seat. An existing rear lean-to had to be demolished to allow Russian For Fish to build out into the side return and take advantage of the full area of the plot. The installation of steel box frames and beams allowed the ground-floor outrigger walls to be removed without affecting the first floor. A pitched skylight spanning the length of the outrigger was set against an exposed brick wall, creating a naturally floodlit dining area. A bench running along the wall, fitted with low cupboards, created both seating and storage, while a large, projecting picture window lined in oiled prime oak at the head of the dining area maximised the garden view and provided both an extra seat and a much-needed chill-out space for the cat.
The kitchen fixtures and cabinets were sourced off-the-shelf, but fitted with bespoke doors and drawer fronts. A peppermint green colour was chosen for these as a complementary contrast to the surrounding material tones of the space: the oiled oak of the worktop, the natural grey of the concrete floor tiles, the exposed brick wall, the grey and white hexagonal splash-back tiles, and the stainless steel handles and appliances. Vibrant colour accents have been introduced by the client’s existing furniture, utensils and prints, and, of course, the seasonal changes of the flora in the garden - now reached by a floor-to-ceiling bi-folding glass door. After a year of design and construction work, the project was complete, and the owners - and their new baby - are now enjoying their garden oasis in the urban jungle of Stoke Newington.