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Where Architects Live | Ben Ridley

New and existing elements combine – such as the exposed pine beams with their original timber cross-bracing, creating a pleasing rhythm to the ceiling.

An unpromising Edwardian terrace in London’s northern suburb of Muswell Hill has become a place of calm and connection to nature under the direction of  Architecture For London founder Ben Ridley. 

The original sequence of dark, boxy rooms has been opened up and a sense of expansiveness created by edging an extension into the garden space with its wild planting – a far cry from a traditional British lawn – which is framed by a wall of glazing. 

Looking all over North London for the right property, Architecture For London founder Ben Ridley came across a house with the downside of a deeply depressing existing interior. It did mean other potential buyers overlooked it, Ben admits, and the upside of an empty block to the east. “We have designed a house for that site which fully embraces Passivhaus principles,” he says.

The Edwardian terrace in London’s Muswell Hill has been completely refurbished to open it up to natural light and the garden, creating a flow of integrated spaces that are a far cry from the original dark, boxy rooms.

“On the ground floor, we had almost no daylight as there was only one small window that faced north,” Ben says. So the addition of a large window to the east, a circular skylight and glazing to the garden, framing the greenery beyond, create both light and a sense of connection to the site.

New and existing elements combine – such as the exposed pine beams with their original timber cross-bracing, creating a pleasing rhythm to the ceiling and increasing the volume of the rooms. Usable space has been expanded by adding a rear extension directly linking to the intentionally wild garden and converting the loft as guest accommodation, taking the total internal space to 177 square metres.

The original part of the house facing the street retains the charm of the stained-glass windows, while contemporary furnishings in soft natural tones sit among potted plants. The limed wall treatment and joinery are continuously linked between existing and new spaces.

As a studio, Ben says Architecture For London strive to create environments where energy saving is paramount. “I trained in the Passivhaus principles about seven or eight years ago, and while I have been trying to convince people of their value ever since, it feels like we have turned a corner, and clients are now coming to us because they are keen to understand the benefits,” he says. Triple glazing and improving air tightness through high levels of insulation alongside the addition of an MVHR system providing pre-heated fresh air have achieved an estimated 80 per cent of energy saving.

These steps are further enhanced by aesthetics driven by the choice of materials and Ben’s exacting eye for volume, proportion and design. A limited palette is widely used – natural stone, timber and lime plaster with its textural raw finish – all coalesce to add character to the space. “The Grassi Pietre limestone is from Italy, near Vicenza, and oak timber is used pretty much everywhere except for in the master bedroom, where we have wide Douglas Fir boards from heritage Danish brand, Dinesen.”

This feature originally appeared in est magazine issue 51: Design Voices. 

It is a house of expansive gestures and fine detailing. “The Grassi Pietre limestone is from Italy, near Vicenza, and oak timber is used pretty much everywhere,” Ben says. The containment of the palette allows the forms, the repetition of the ceiling beams and the light to inform the space.

Floorboards from Dinesen combine with original brickwork treated in lime plaster – a finish that has been used for centuries.

“We employ Passivhaus principles...and clients are now coming to us because they are keen to understand the benefits.”

– ben ridley

Ben Ridley is photographed in the filtered light of the upstairs bedroom, where an S-fold curtain from Kvadrat mutes the street and gives a cocooning effect.

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