Don't Move, Improve: New London Architecture's award-winning home extensions of the year

Rising property prices mean Londoners are extending their homes rather than moving. Find inspiration in these renovation projects and get free expert one-to-one advice...

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The looming hike in stamp duty and endlessly rising property prices mean Londoners are increasingly choosing to extend their homes rather than move.

Now in its sixth and biggest year, New London Architecture’s Don’t Move, Improve! competition had 84 entries and the winners, just announced, are now on show at New London Architecture in Store Street, Fitzrovia.

All projects had to have been completed during the previous two years. They cover every possible type of extension, including insertions. First and second places went to houses that used brick enhanced by glass, done in clever, visually witty ways, to make transformative extensions.

Overall first place went to House of Trace in Lewisham by Tsuruta Architects, who essentially “filled in” the slope-roofed profile of the side of a house, squaring off the building into a neat block and adding a great deal of extra volume. The brickwork was done in a way that makes the addition absolutely clear — leaving a trace — which works really well.

In second place, using a different visual pun, David Kohn Architects created a big, light-filled ground-floor extension at Sanderson House in Islington, with vertical panes of glass looking out to the garden. The orange-tinged extension has a long slope at the top and a round window that makes it resemble a fox’s head, complete with “eye”, when seen from the garden. It’s a charming bit of fun that also adds delight inside because of the circular window.

Special awards focused on excellence in specific areas. The Facet House by Platform 5 Architects won the best interior prize. The high level of finish and thought really shows — and must be a joy to live with. White ceramic tiles are counterpointed with a beautiful and substantial use of oak. Solid-block parquet floors run through the extension, complemented by a bespoke parquet-topped kitchen table and a beautiful, long fitted banquette in oak. The light, warm-toned wood manages to be serene, modern and classic at the same time.

A really exciting interior was created by Patalab Architects at The Gables in Primrose Hill, north-west London, where a nondescript Fifties brick former garage became an ultra-modern home. The project won the award for best use of materials with its innovative blend of polished concrete, timber screens and whitewashed brick. The spacious result is about as far from a sweaty, smelly garage as you could imagine — and demonstrates how far ingenuity can take you.

An interesting category is best historic intervention. Plenty of Londoners have to grapple with the constraints of living in an old house but few take as radical an approach as West Architecture’s. Hands-down winner was the practice’s 1766 townhouse in Fitzrovia that had suffered bomb damage in the war and further indignities, so that a great deal of its interior was altered or missing. Retaining the listed front, back, and side walls to the neighbouring houses, West daringly put an unapologetically brutalist steel-and-glass insertion within the main frame. The result is striking, showing that sometimes a bold approach works best. This entry is also testament to the local planners taking a daring punt, rather than always playing safe.

The most cost-effective award was split between three projects, including Nook House in Homerton, Hackney, by Mustard Architects. Just the right amount of space was added to a dog-leg extension to transform the lives of the owners — and give them maximum benefit for their budget.

Get expert free one-to-one advice from winners and shortlisted architectural practices on Saturday, February 27, at New London Architecture in Store Street, WC1, along with “how to” talks from design experts. Although this event is free you need to book. Subject to availability.

The free Don’t Move, Improve! exhibition at New London Architecture runs until March.

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