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“The location had a huge impact on what we could do and gaining planning permission proved to be quite an epic struggle,” says Nishant. “Typically, this type of house can be dark, particularly in the entrance hallway, so introducing light was our top priority. As we couldn’t build upwards, we went down and created a basement with an extra bedroom and bathroom, a TV room and utility.” Nishant is Indian-American and Esther is


German-American. Experience of homes in their respective countries coloured their aspirations and helped to inspire a love of simple, modern, open interiors. “Having so many storeys and stairs isn’t ideal for a family, but we hoped that creating light, bright spaces would help to counteract the vertical nature of the house,” explains Nishant. Cox Architects seeks to provide creative and practical solutions to architecture, landscaping, and interior design briefs – from the smallest residential refurbishment project to large new- build houses – and the practice was challenged to transform the damp, dark, tightly enclosed house into an open, light-filled five-bedroom family home. At the same time, Esther and Nishant wanted to increase floor space with a new basement, modernise all services, and massively improve the building’s long-term energy performance.


“‘The pit’ was their name for the shallow yard at the back of the house, and the existing staircase was taking up valuable floor space and complicating the plan, while the building’s small side wing was underused and dysfunctional,”


64 www.sbhonline.co.uk


Planning


STAIRCASE


permission was achieved to extend and raise the wing, and the new


Finding space for an elegant new mild steel and ash staircase, with walk-on glass landings, unlocked the potential of what was a rundown Regency villa


HIGH POINT


staircase became the signature note for the entire house


explains architect Steve Cox. “We needed to obtain consent in a Conservation Area to alter the side wing, and thereby unlock potential. Planning permission was achieved to extend and raise the wing, and the new staircase became the signature note for the entire house.”


In addition to gaining Conservation Area consent, planning and Building Control approval, and producing a detailed design, Cox Architects also tendered for and selected the building contractor – project managing the entire process from start to finish. Party wall agreements were also needed from the neighbouring flats before work could go ahead. “We were very much guided by Steve, who is a perfectionist, and carefully designed every


may/june 2021


“Seeing the amount of light which now comes into the house, after installing so much glass.”


NISHANT’S ADVICE “Use a specialist


basement contractor if you need a speedy excavation and think carefully about whether it makes financial sense.”


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