by Meghna MehtaAug 20, 2020
The Lime House designed by London-based Cox Architects is a conversion of a derelict commercial premises into a light filled family home in South London, UK. The brief by the client demanded to transform a 95 sqm dilapidated shop on a tiny site in a conservation area into a spacious four-bedroom house. The efforts in preservation along with the adaptive re-use of the land give rise to an architecture that respects and responds to the existing structure by creating minimal waste and picturesque design.
Initially, as the original structure was a part-commercial building, local restrictions meant that the entire building could not be adequately converted at once. Hence, the work was split into two phases, and finally completed in 2020 over an eight-year period. Steve Cox, the principal architect of the firm, describes the key challenges saying, “The eight-year long process required a lot of patience. Another main challenge was to find sufficient additional floor area on a tiny plot under the strict local planning controls”.
Cox Architects worked creatively with the local planning authority such that they could benefit from the site's end-of-terrace location to 'build-up' a new street façade. Behind this the house was then able to expand without encroaching into the garden and providing less habitable space into a cave-like basement and more on the floors.
The main element of the built structure is the use of hydraulic lime on its exterior façade from which the structure derives its name, ‘Lime House’. Cox says, “The exterior brickwork was coated with a thin lime ‘slurry’, which gives it a matt, veil-like wash over the bare brick”. Further complementing the limewash are the minimal framed timber windows that were lightly treated with a pale wooden stain to allow the character of the material to show through. “We also chose the lime as it lets the walls breathe (unlike most modern paints or renders), which helps with internal air quality and preserves the brick,” adds Cox.
Another challenging aspect about the design and building of the house was that there were two clients during the entire process of execution of the Lime House. The first client was a property investor who executed the first phase and later sold the house.
The next clients, also the current owners, are a Swiss finance executive and an Italian lawyer. The couple has two young children and required (even during pre-COVID times) a viable long-term home-office solution. The new residents also own large stacks of design magazines, fashionable lights and interesting artwork that further attest to their high level of design awareness. The thermal insulation was upgraded, where every window was replaced and new efficient mechanical and electrical services were installed throughout.
The project is a unique resolution and combination of a tough brief with quality of space and a positive contribution to the street. Cox shares, “The project was completed for two clients and we were uniquely fortunate that both invested in our vision for the plot”.
Name: Lime House
Location: London, UK
Architect: COX Architects
Principal architect: Steve Cox
Project size: 143 sqm
Site size: 92 sqm
Completion date: 2020