Hampstead side-return and basement extension creates perfect family home
The Goalen family thought they faced a stark choice: stay in the overcrowded house that they loved, or up sticks and move somewhere bigger. The first option appeared unrealistic — Monique Goalen and her husband Iain have four children — so reluctantly they started looking at property near their children's Hampstead schools.
"It was with a heavy heart," says Monique, a lawyer, "because we really didn't want to move. But we'd had a planning application to extend the house turned down flat by Camden council and felt we had run out of options."
The Goalens' four-storey terrace house was Grade II-listed, which made it difficult for their architect to come up with a design that gave the family the additional space they needed while also keeping the council happy.
When Monique and Iain bought the house 17 years ago for £400,000, it was because they loved its Georgian panelling, cosy little rooms and wealth of original features.
"There were two of us then. Now there are six," says Monique. "But we love the house and the area, and we couldn't imagine living anywhere else."
Unlike many of the surrounding houses — all close to the station and the heath — the Goalens' 350-year-old house had not been split into flats.
"The previous owner had it for years and changed almost nothing. That was both a blessing and a curse," says Monique.
When they bought the house there was a lower-ground floor with three small rooms, including an old kitchen extension. On the ground floor were two formal reception rooms and then four bedrooms and two bathrooms arranged over the two upper storeys.
The Goalens wanted a family room where Angus, 17, Tara, 15, Cameron, 12, and Maia, nine, could watch films, listen to music and have friends over without disturbing their parents. Their parents wanted an open-plan kitchen/dining room that would open on to the modest-sized garden and where they could entertain their friends.
In a last-ditch attempt to change the house into their forever home, they turned to Shahriar Nasser, founder of award-winning Belsize Architects (belsizearchitects.com; 020 7482 4420).
"When I came on board they were desperate," says Shahriar. "The previous design was a huge basement extension taking up most of the back garden and running right up to the neighbours' wall. I wasn't surprised the planners rejected it.
"Our plan was to open up a side-return area, take an extension to the lower ground floor deeper and build a room on top of it."
In order to further appease the planners, Shahriar matched the brickwork of the extension, adjacent patio and steps up to the garden with those of the original house.
In addition, knowing that he would use a lot of glass, particularly in the new basement room, Shahriar took inspiration from the renowned architect David Chipperfield, who was the first to use mesh between panes of glass to create a colour effect.
Shahriar used copper mesh in some glass panels — including those in the sliding doors that open from the dining area out onto the garden — so that they would blend in with the brickwork.
The results are stunning. The children have a cinema room in the basement, equipped with a large TV and the hub of a house-wide sound system, while above them their parents have a modern kitchen with open-plan dining area that is perfect for parties.
"A friend told me that when your children become teenagers you want them beneath you, never above," laughs Monique.
"This is the perfect solution. The basement extension has its own entrance and can be shut off from the rest of the house, so they can make all the noise they want."
Shahriar created a large bedroom for Angus on the lower ground floor. Beside it is the hallway with stairs leading down into the basement extension. The layout of the rest of the house is the same.
"Monique and Iain didn't want to change everything," Shahriar says. "We renovated and modernised but essentially the original part of the house retains its original character, while the back has this modern extension."
Shahriar also designed a garden room, which Monique is using as a studio to design her own range of lingerie. The house has been valued at £4 million, but thoughts of moving couldn't be further from Monique's mind. "I don't ever want to move," she says. "I can easily see Iain and I being here when it's only two of us again."
Photographs by Jake Fitzjones