Cox Architects paint a residence in London with limewash to achieve matte finish

London-based architect Steve Cox builds Lime House - through the adaptive re-use of the commercial plot – over eight years with two clients, to make it a family home.

by Meghna Mehta Published on : Aug 13, 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.

The original structure took eight years to transform | Lime House by Cox Architects| STIRworld
The original structure took eight years to transform Image: Matt Clayton

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”.

The new Lime House | Lime House by Cox Architects| STIRworld
The new Lime House Image: Matt Clayton

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 old structure upgraded under the strict local planning controls | Lime House by Cox Architects| STIRworld
    The old structure upgraded under the strict local planning controls Image: Matt Clayton
  • The original derelict structure | Lime House by Cox Architects| STIRworld
    The original derelict structure Image: Matt Clayton

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.

The lime slurry coated on the façade of the house for a matt finish | Lime House by Cox Architects| STIRworld
The lime slurry coated on the façade of the house for a matt finish Image: Matt Clayton

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.

  • Original plans before renovation | Lime house | Cox architects| STIRworld
    Original plans before renovation Image: Courtesy of Cox Architects
  • The ground floor with a kitchen and the backyard | Lime House by Cox Architects| STIRworld
    The ground floor with a kitchen and the backyard Image: Matt Clayton

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.

  • New floor plans after renovation | Lime house | Cox architects| STIRworld
    New floor plans after renovation Image: Courtesy of Cox Architects
  • The long-term home office solution that the couple wanted even before the pre-COVID times | Lime House by Cox Architects| STIRworld
    The long-term home office solution that the couple wanted even before the pre-COVID times Image: Matt Clayton
  • The home office that the clients wanted even before the coronavirus took over | Lime House by Cox Architects| STIRworld
    The home office that the clients wanted even before the coronavirus took over Image: Matt Clayton

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”.

Project Details

Name: Lime House
Location: London, UK
Architect: COX Architects
Principal architect: Steve Cox
Project size: 143 sqm
Site size: 92 sqm
Completion date: 2020

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