In the remodel of a neglected Victorian terrace house in London, MW Architects founding director Matthew Wood had a vision to transform the rundown building into a functional family home. Although the clients were worried that the kitchen was situated half a story below the entrance, Matthew saw this structural detail as an opportunity to create a dynamic split-level space. He opened up the kitchen to the mezzanine floor library above with ceiling voids and balconies.
To link the new, airy rooms with one another, Matthew wanted to install cabinetry that would start in the kitchen, climb up through a void in the ceiling, and become shelving in the study. He just needed to find someone to construct it. “It was very clear that it needed to be a bespoke piece of joinery,” he explains. “It wasn’t going to be an off-the-shelf kitchen.”
Conveniently, Matthew attended university with Alan Drumm, the founding director of Uncommon Projects, a custom plywood cabinetry company that was just emerging at the time. The two former classmates immediately agreed on the aesthetic and together designed a bold, elaborate system that ribbons through the home.
Location: This Victorian terrace house sits in an affluent London neighborhood called Belsize Park. It’s part of a continuous block of identical homes within the Mansfield Conservation Area, which mandates that rooflines and front façades of buildings remain mostly original. The laws do allow, however, for a bit of creativity when it comes to ground-floor extensions in the back.
The before: “It was horrible,” Matthew says. “It was a damp, wet, miserable hole. It was pretty bad. It was uninhabitable, pretty much. It needed completely stripping out, so we took it all the way back to the brick and made the structural changes.”
The inspiration: The young family who purchased the home wanted raw or natural materials to be expressed wherever possible, and Matthew was completely on board. He worked to find items with longevity and lasting richness.
Square footage: 30 square meters (about 323 square feet)
Budget: “I think we budgeted £20,000 (about $25,750) for the joinery, but it was an estimate before it was designed,” says Matthew.
Cabinetry: Uncommon Projects Custom Birch Plywood Cabinets Veneered in American White Oak. “We didn’t want a white kitchen,” Matthew says. “We wanted something with some color. The yellow and the gray go very well with the oak, so that was an easy match. As the joinery goes up through the void and into the library above, the shade of the yellow deepens and it actually becomes a red by the top.”
Windows: Fabco Sanctuary Steel-Framed Windows. “They’re based on the traditional ’60s ones from a company called Crittall that invented these steel-framed windows. They’re still really popular—everybody wants them.”
Floors: Mandarin Stone Limestone. “It was a case of trying to find something that was going to work inside and outside, because it needed to go through the glass doors and the floor is completely flush and we wanted that continuity,” says Matthew.
Counters and Backsplash: Planet Granite Bianco Maple Polished Quartz Composite
Wall Paint: Farrow & Ball Ammonite. “We had a paint consultant who recommended appropriate paint colors. We knew vaguely what color it was going to be. We knew it was going to be an off-white. It was very much about finding a color that was going to sit comfortably with the joinery.”
Lighting: Philips Hue White Ambiance Runner Single Spotlights. “I have a bit of an issue with recessed spotlights, which everyone was doing 10 years ago,” Matthew says. “I find surface-mounted spotlights much, much more elegant. You don’t get this hard, downward light from them. You can point the light where you need it without it being too bright.”
Faucet: Quooker Fusion Square
Appliances: Miele Ovens
Table and Chairs: Client’s own. “Funny enough, the table and chairs came from next door,” Matthew explains. “While we were building, the next-door neighbor sold their house and was moving out. It was an over-the-garden-fence discussion. They were struggling with how to get the table out of their house and our client needed a table. It just popped over the fence.”
Railings: Custom. “It’s raw steel, and we put a black lacquer on it to give it a bit of richness,” says Matthew.
Most outrageous splurge: “The biggest indulgence was the paint,” Matthew says. “They painted the entire house in Farrow & Ball, which is expensive paint.”
Sneakiest save: “All of the switches and sockets are just white plastic, which is obviously a really cheap way of doing it,” says Matthew. “They spent their money on structure and bones, and not on fixtures and fittings.”
The best part: “My favorite element is the void—the little bit above the new stair going down and the view up to the upstairs,” Matthew says. “I think that was really successful, particularly combined with the joinery wrapping around. You see under that floor and above that floor at the same time. That’s a surprise. You don’t expect to see that in a house like this when you walk through the front door.”
What I’d never do again: “The cheap sockets were a false economy. I think that was a mistake, so I probably would advise against that in the future. They changed some of those to metal-faced switch panels and sockets, which we should have done in the first place. Other than that, I think we did a good job of spending the amount of money that was needed to pull it off.”
Final bill: The custom cabinetry system ended up costing £36,000 (about $46,345), while the countertops and backsplash were around £3,000 (about $3,860).
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest