Up On The Roof - Real Homes

The owners of this apartment added a prefabricated steel structure to create a chill-out space with to die-for views


The streets of Hoxton stream with people. Noisy, trendy and a little rough around the edges it’s right at the heart of a beating city. Yet from behind the glass of Lee and Laura Hughes’s roof top apartment, the atmosphere couldn’t be more different. Edgy mayhem is replaced with surreal calm. ‘It’s very quiet and peaceful up here,’ says Laura. ‘It feels tranquil, yet you can hear the vague hum of the city.’

The apartment is part of an old factory, converted into loft apartments seven years ago by the Manhattan Loft Corporation. When Laura and Lee bought the property in 2003 it had a teeny glass pod poking through an enormous paved roof terrace. ‘We couldn’t use the pod for anything meaningful,’ says Laura. ‘It was very small and the south-facing wall was glazed so in the summer the heat was stifling.’ Within six months of moving in they decided to turn the redundant green house into a study/chill-out area.

Laura found their architect, Project Orange, through the free RIBA architect search service. ‘It’s great. You tell them your budget and roughly what you want done, and they match you up with local architects who have done similar projects,’ she says. ‘Both Lee and I had quite specific ideas about the feel we wanted to create, so we chose Project Orange because their portfolio was exactly along the lines we’d been thinking of.’

The extension took on a simple form, with the existing rectangular structure extended across the entire length of the terrace. Wooden ventilation slats and immaculate interior plastering disguise the point of juncture. Whereas the south- facing wall now has a strip window, both the east and west walls are entirely glazed with doors leading out onto two separate roof terraces. The staircase is unchanged.

‘They hoisted the prefabricated steel frame onto the roof with a crane,’ says Laura. ‘It only took a day but the buses had to go on diversion and the parking bay was suspended. Basically we weren’t the most popular residents in the street.’ Once in place, the extension took less than three months to finish, but the couple had decided to refurbish the entire apartment at the same time, so it was a few more months until they could move back in.

The total cost was £250,000, but this included a new bathroom, flooring, underfloor heating and boiler downstairs as well as the cost of renting an apartment during construction. The results are well worth it. With views stretching from the spokes of the Dome and towers of Canary Wharf to the London Eye, you feel like you’re in a bubble floating above the city. ‘Having so much sky is fantastic,’ says Laura.

Useful Contacts

Architect: Project Orange www.projectorange.com
Main contractor: Blake Builders 020 7359 9831
Flooring and underfloor heating: Element 7 www.element7.co.uk
Recessed Lighting: Modular Lighting www.modular-lighting.co.uk
Gas fire: FAF chimney services 020 8597 2223

Words: Cathy Strongman Images: Mel Yates

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