Designer    Case Study 02 Jan 2014

London designers Coffey Architects capture light and clarity in new adjoining apartments project

Splicing together two apartments in a converted warehouse building required joined-up thinking from top to bottom…

London practice Coffey Architects has connected two separate apartments in a historic Clerkenwell building to create a large combined residential unit. The floor plans of two apartments – one above the other – were totally reconfigured and tied together, vertically and horizontally, via a joinery wall which stretches from one end to the other of both plans.

The 7m high wall of storage physically and visually links the two levels reconfiguring the separate spaces into a single volume for living. A glazed and mirrored slot creates a visual ‘grand hall’ in front of the joinery element, and contributes to a light and spacious experience when moving around the home.

The central storage wall and slot not only create visual continuity, they also split the plan between primary and tertiary spaces. Bathrooms, entrance spaces and a linear stairs are located to the rear and living spaces enjoy light and evening sun from the large north west facing windows. Private living spaces are located on the lower floor, with more flexible living space on the upper floor. A high degree of flexibility across all spaces allows the home to be used as three bedrooms plus a large living space or alternatively, it can be utilised as several living spaces.

The kitchen consists of Poggenpohl furniture. Phil Coffey, Founder of Coffey Architects, explains: “Before approaching Poggenpohl, we designed the kitchen together with the client – we wanted to make sure that it would fit in with the concept. Poggenpohl then based their drawings on ours.”

A natural basalt floor finish was chosen for all room functions on both floors on the basis that it meets the needs for each area and also creates a sense of unity across the whole apartment. An area of glazed floor between the two levels allows light from the upper floor to permeate the corridor linking the bedrooms below. The main joinery along the corridor is formed from lacquered panels and stainless steel channels which create interesting shadow effects.

“The central joinery wall was challenging in many ways,” Coffey admits. “A lot of parameters were involved – such as space requirements, position, rhythm etc. which led to challenges at the design stages as well as at the construction stages.”

The functions behind the joinery wall such as the stairs, the WC, the en suite, the utility, the boiler room, the AV room and the entrances all had very different spatial requirements. The wall of joinery itself was multifunctional – it needed to contain a variety of different elements such as kitchen appliances, TV, speakers, books, windows to the bathrooms, recessed doors to the rooms. “The pivoting recessed doors to the bedrooms in particular required a lot of detailing to ensure they would be flush with the rest of the joinery when open and perfectly fitted to the width of the corridor when closed. A bespoke magnetic door catch system was also designed for these.”

“The strength of the joinery was enhanced through the detailing of it. The alignment of the stainless recessed channels was designed to follow the different functions such as the rhythm of the stairs. The glazed floor also required extreme precision to ensure the joinery was read as one element through the glazed floor. The joinery wall offered a solution that concealed doors, windows and tertiary functions in one architectural language which tied everything together in one element, offering the clients a clear and flexible layout of their home.”

The existing rough textured red brick walls – characteristic of the historic interior of the building – have been retained and contrasted with new, smooth, white painted walls and panels to highlight the best qualities of old and new. The bathroom walls are clad in slim lines of basalt stone to match the floor tiles. These natural finishes add layers of texture and beautifully reflect the quality of light coming through the translucent glazed partition walls.

The use of glazed walls and floors challenges the usually enclosed interior circulation spaces to achieve a feeling of openness and space. Interior spaces are connected allowing areas that would not normally benefit from natural light to do so.

The bathroom itself features bespoke washbasins from Dutch design studio NotOnlyWhite. “The space for the bathrooms was very limited which meant the washbasins needed to be fairly narrow,” Coffey says. “NotOnlyWhite made it possible to make a narrow basin that fitted perfectly to the width of the bathrooms. The washbasin and countertop is all in one material, which makes it look tidy.”

Taps from Vola are wall-mounted which ensures no waste of space at the back of the washbasins. The basalt wall tiles are from Norstone and matches the colour of the floor tiles. Coffey adds: “The slimline tiles are chosen to create texture as a contrast to the sleek washbasins as well as catching the light beautifully from the recessed light fittings.”

The design of the apartment maximises user comfort and control. It includes an intelligent control system that allows the client to have full control of the lighting, AV and heating. The homeowner can control the sound, temperature and light in one room or indeed the whole apartment from a control pad, a smart phone and from local keypad controllers. All the lighting is dimmable high power LEDs which give a very good quality of light whilst being low in energy use.

Coffey says: “It is a unique project. Of course, we always consider every project as a unique project, but common for all the residential projects we’ve done is that we seek to tie the home together in plan as well as in section – just like this one. Our previous experience with how to draw in the light through form and materials was very helpful in this case.”

For this Clerkenwell residence, he is understandably pleased with the end result: “I love the functionality and design of the joinery wall – I think the way it conceals everything clarifies the surrounding spaces.”

“My favourite space is strangely enough the corridor. It makes an incredible entrance space to the apartment. The space is flooded in light due to the glazed floor/ceiling which, in connection with the double high joinery wall, extends the space and connects it with the living area above.”

Coffey Architects |

Published in Designer Kitchen & Bathroom Magazine