Beautiful Light

A run-down warehouse in central London would have many a renovator running for the hills, but Henning Stummel used a blend of restoration and new-build to transform it into a beautiful, bright home.

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Architect Henning Stummel transformed a rickety late-Georgian warehouse in Paddington into an open-plan, three-bedroom apartment with separate office, and did it with such conviction that it won the Grand Designs Award for best conversion back in 2009. The building’s former owner hadn’t insured it for 30 or so years, it hadn’t been re-plumbed or re-wired for upwards of 100 and needed a lot of structural work. So, was he nervous? ‘There were sprawling damp spots, cracks everywhere and sanitation issues – you couldn’t not be nervous,’ he recalls. Henning’s calm, open-plan, white-on-wood design is unquestionably a reflection of self. In the main open-plan room, light bounces off the smooth white surfaces. Two shelves run along one wall at roughly knee height, the lower shelf is lined with books and the other is topped with leaning canvases (Henning was too pleased with the plastering to hammer nails into the walls). There are clearly three sections to the space – one for cooking, one for eating and one for sitting, but there is so much fluidity between them that you could happily chat to your guests while making tea, just as you could slip from dining table to sofa without spoiling the party.

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The Paddington building is vernacular London, built with stock brick; the spans are what could be achieved with a timber truss and the roof slope is what you could do with Welsh slate, at the time it was built. There’s beauty in the inevitability of this building, which is why Henning’s design placed great importance on restoring the historic fabric. He wanted underfloor heating, so he took up the floorboards, put insulation down, installed the heating, and then reused the original materials. ‘The aesthetic interest for me was the openness of the spaces, so I wanted to retain and highlight that, along with period features, such as the pad stones and the fireplace.’

The original open-plan space incorporates a box-like sculpture, made up of machined lengths of oak, which are held together with treaded stainless-steel rods, bolted and capped at each end.

For sculptural effect, the double-height box features light-reflecting Perspex blocks, one of Henning’s favoured materials, and wood in a corrugated finish. Finding the guest bathroom requires a little trial and error, as doors are cleverly concealed in the oak. Rooms are worked around the sculpture, in the master bedroom, a dressing table and walk-through wardrobe blend into it. The only large room is Henning’s daughter Justine’s on the upper floor. This distribution of space is deliberate. In Henning’s opinion, many conversions of barns and industrial buildings go wrong because people turn them into ‘just another house’ by divvying them up into multiple same-size rooms, losing the beauty of the original space. ‘I think this apartment reflects the way we’re increasingly living,’ he says.

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SUPPLIERS

Architect

Henning Stummel Architects (henningstummelarchitects.co.uk)

Structural engineer

Michael Hadi Associates

(020 7375 6340;

mha-consult.co.uk)

Kitchen

Boffi (boffi-chelsea.com)

BUDGET BREAKDOWN

Cost of land/property £1.35m

Cost of build £450,000

Total cost £1.8m

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