New light filled heart to a 1920s home

Tom Hughes

Our strategic approach to the remodel of a 1920s home was to carve out a new space at the centre- relinking areas of the house that for reasons of class had originally been divided into servant and served.

Into this void would go a contemporary stair, a strong element in its own right but designed to direct space- creating important spatial links and sightlines.

The existing stained-glass steel framed window to the south elevation remains in place, pouring light into the new heart of the house.

Into the void: 1920s house remodel gets off the drawing board

Tom Hughes

A remodel project is usually a messy thing when it starts on site — plenty of dust and disruption as things get worse before they get better. However, the first steps of this project have presented a glimpse of how much better the house will be when the work is complete: with the removal of the stairs and jumble of storage rooms at the core of the house, new views have opened up from ground level to the underside of the roof.

The creation of a new heart to the house is a key part of our design, reconnecting rooms on each side of the building and linking-in a new loft space above. It's rewarding to see evidence of the value the design will bring at such an early stage. 

For the background to the design, see our previous post about upgrading a 1920s house.

Portfolio project
Upgrading a 1920s house

Tom Hughes

This project is currently on the drawing board in the practice, and we thought it worth sharing some interesting aspects of the process so far.

We started out with a client with a beautiful property... that is unfortunately an energy guzzler and has a layout that just doesn't work for the family's lifestyle. The house features a half-timbered front and an interior with many Art Deco, Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts features. The rear elevation however has many problems with the detailing and a too-hot/too-cold (and out of keeping) conservatory.

With ambitious ideas for remodeling and extending, and a great set of intentions to create a sustainable and energy efficient building we straight away knew that this was a client with whom we could do something special. We also know that these kinds of great ideas can sometimes clash with the realities of programme and budget, so we agreed with our clients that the first step would be holistic: to develop an architectural strategy hand-in-hand with budget costings and a sustainability assessment.

We brought Hockerton Housing Project in to create a 'Home Energy Masterplan' for the property. They thoroughly surveyed the existing fabric and identified cost-effective and practical methods to improve the energy performance of the building. Their report identified measures and payback times for a range of approaches, from the 'no brainer' moves that would pay off straight away to the 'green halo' measures that improve sustainability but might not pay off for years or even decades to come. 

We took that information and worked with Branch Construction, an environmentally aware building company, to develop budget costing and buildability strategies on a number of different design options. Having worked out what the current problems were with the house, we developed some ideas for solving them and creating an amazing new home for our client. This centres around a completely remodeled core to the house, linking front to back and interior to garden.


Finally, we rated the options for cost/buildability, sustainability and design – presenting the conclusions as an architectural strategy report. You candownload a public version of this report.

This thorough-going approach has helped our client through some tough decisions on the project scope, and the trade-offs between cost, sustainability and payback time. Having established a scheme that can be completed as a Permitted Development (not requiring planning permission) we are now developing the project into the detailed design stage.