Project: Labour of love

By Matt Balmer
April 7, 2018

MorenoMasey turned a former commercial building in south west London into an industrial-cosy family home referencing the property’s busy past.

by Rebecca Hoh-Hale

Created within a former light industrial and office unit in Barnes, this project by MorenoMasey was an exercise in reconfiguring a commercial building as a family home, following the property’s existing cues and responding to them, rather than shoehorning the vision in. In fact, the idea was to bring the two worlds together as a new aesthetic.

“We wanted to create the story of the home around what we were working with, material- and feel-wise,” says Rodrigo Moreno Masey, founder and principal of the architectural firm known for its broad portfolio of projects, creating conceptual design in the context of challenging build projects. “it was definitely a balancing act. It felt wrong to superimpose a different building inside the space, but at the same time we were honest with our choices and wanted to avoid industrial clichés.”

In order to achieve this, the client first obtained consent to change the building’s use before the complete overhaul began. MorenoMasey added a floor, shelled out the existing top floor, demolished the rear, added an extension, and undertook a total modernisation to create this six bedroom detached residential space.

The completion time was just 11 months. Moreno Masey describes it as “evolving as they went”, as the client was keen to get going, allowing finer decisions to be made as the project developed – which does sound like it could have been on the stressful side of ways to work. “What can I say?” laughs Moreno Masey. “I think the most important thing is to have a clear philosophy of what we are all trying to achieve, the end goal, and what those guiding principles are that will take you there. Then you can always test developing ideas against them to produce a cohesive product.” In this case, the guiding principle was ultimately a functioning family home – not a property developer showcase, not a New York loft type space or bachelor pad. But it was still to be comprised of design choices informed by the building’s industrial DNA. Finally, it needed to be filled with as much natural light as possible. To satisfy the latter, there are lightwells throughout, while the open-plan kitchen-diner-lounge also has a top-lit rear extension.

For the first goal, much care was taken to make sure the home functioned as a family space, with a generous open-plan living across the ground floor and playrooms, and a considered garden that connects well with the interior to ensure maximum use. In terms of merging industrial heritage with domestic live-ability, much has been made of the the existing raw brickwork columns and a simple palette in both colour and materials has been used. This includes existing textured concrete left exposed on the downstand beam, alongside new polished concrete floors, rich timbers, and skimmed plasterboard with a paint finish for the walls. Marble worktops and Corian island units crisp up the scheme.

“One of the biggest challenges was actually getting the builders to buy into this aesthetic,” Moreno Masey explains. “That when was it was stripped out, it was finished! Builders are hardwired to plaster and paint and cover up junctions and original materials, but that is the exact rawness we wanted.”

But there are also many soft layers, to bring in the family feel and get the balance right. Concealed LED uplighting highlights the feature concrete coffer in the living space ceiling. It still shows the timber shutter markings, as it is actually the building’s original floor construction. However, all the services have been hidden inside its plasterboard edges, rather than going for the full-blown exposed wiring and piping associated with edgier warehouse-style spaces.

MorenoMasey worked with interior designer Catherine White on the interior spec, in order to add comfort, heart, and a little luxury to proceedings. She sourced the coffee tables and Jacaranda rug, Camerich sofas with Harlequin fabric, and the Hay dining table and chairs. The duo also installed a super contemporary fireplace by Marble Hill and simple but beautiful cabinets by Intervari joiners.
To the rear, large-format Crittall-style windows and doors by Midland Metal maximise south-facing natural daylight from the former rear yard – now an inviting landscaped garden. Crittall has become a popular choice for projects with industrial styling, but in this case was chosen to reference the building’s midcentury heritage.

Moving upstairs, there is more of a classic, traditional look but still with an architectural bent – all stripped-back forms with limited decorative elements, such as the minimal staircase and utilitarian style bathrooms. The painted skimmed plasterboard wall finishes are continued, plus cleaned lined units and one-colour stone floor tiling from Caesar. On the first floor, a large master bedroom suite was created with purpose-made walk-in wardrobe joinery and a master ensuite with both a freestanding bath and a separate steam shower. As part of the build scheme, an entirely new zinc-clad second floor was created. A new staircase links from the first to second floor landings, and large roof lights above allow much-needed natural lighting to flow into the corridor space of the floors below. At the second floor a combination of large metal framed windows and discreet roof lights also help create the new spacious and naturally lit volumes the client and team wanted. This level also houses two further double bedrooms, a second family bathroom, an ensuite shower room, and – at the centre of the building – a large playroom with rooftop views.

The site’s potential has certainly been maximised in an understated way. Indeed, MorenoMasey has created a new industrial-cosy hybrid using the building’s bones and history to guide them instead of resisting its pull. However it cleverly avoids falling into the traps of the usual industrial clichés or fussy family living. “The architecture and character of the building was hard to ignore,” says Moreno Masey. “We had to respect it. But having this additional strong personality on the project made it all the more exciting.”