Hearth House by AOC


London architects AOC have remodelled the interior of an Edwardian suburban home at Golders Green, London, which includes a concrete hearth with a parquet pattern.

The semi-detached house also features details such as a staircase with a negative plywood balustrade design, lamps protruding from handrails on banisters and picture frames forming the handles of cupboards.

The architects have been able to increase the useable floor area of the house by 20 percent and increase the amount of natural light reaching the previously dark, north-facing rooms by installing a large rooflight.

Here are more details from AOC:

AOC have completed the Hearth House, a new family home in north London.

Located in the suburb of Golders Green the home is an extensive redevelopment of an Edwardian semi-detached house. Working within the existing building footprint the architects have increased the useable floor area by 20% and dramatically re-ordered the internal rooms to provide a range of different spaces to meet the evolving needs of a couple and their three teenage sons.

The house has been opened up with a triple height space to bring light into the previously dark north facing rooms. At the bottom of this space sits a heated poured concrete hearth and stair providing a relaxed centre for family life.

"There are few homes more apparently normal than the suburban semi-detached," says architect Geoff Shearcroft of AOC.  "Yet their spatial generosity and simple construction make them extremely adaptable and capable of accommodating a fantastically diverse range of living arrangements.  The Hearth House provides one example of how these ubiquitous houses can be fine tuned to meet the specific needs of a contemporary family."

The Hearth House is a redeveloped Edwardian semi-detached house in North London that provides a new home for a family of five. Untouched since the 1940s the old house enjoyed a generous provision of space but was dark, spatially unvaried and saturated in the residue of the previous residents.

The client wanted to create a home that was tuned to the specific needs of the family, allowing the potentially separate lives of a couple and three teenage boys to coexist concurrently and beneficially.  Having previously developed two homes the client knew exactly how she wanted to use the house but felt frustrated by traditional room descriptions.  A careful consideration of the use of their old home allowed use and inhabitation to become the focus of the design.

The original brief, described through conversation, was developed into a drawn ‘spatial constitution’.  This was the first stage in developing a shared language between the family and their architects and provided a stepping stone between the loose complexity of their evolving needs and the certainty of a three dimensional proposal.

Externally the house remains familiar yet has a significantly different character.  Existing openings are retained but all the doors and windows have been replaced with black stained timber frames and single panes.  This shifts the scale to that of a larger dwelling, increases the perceived weightiness of the facade and increases the daylight into the home.

The completed home has a diverse range of internal spaces, whose individual characters are defined by an assortment of architectural effects. The ground floor is a series of open sided rooms, visually connected by long glimpses yet distinct enough to allow different activities to go on at the same time in close proximity; dinner parties alongside guitar practice, homework by surround-sound football matches.

Upstairs the rooms follow a more traditional cellular form allowing every family member to retreat to their own space.  Nooks, internal windows, screens and openings ensure the family can easily enjoy the more public areas of the house whilst maintaining their own desired level of privacy.

Click for larger image

A triple height space, lit from above by an openable rooflight, brings direct sunlight into the heart of the north facing home. At its base a warm poured concrete hearth and stair provide a relaxed centre for family life, perfect for clambering and reclining.  The pattern of the reclaimed chevron parquet flooring is repeated in the surface of the concrete, encouraging domestic and historical associations for an unfamiliar material and object.

The new stair uses an assortment of appropriate styles to meet both functional needs and aspirational needs; a Victorian moulded timber balustrade provides a grand ascent to a landing that divides in two; a laser-cut ply negative provides a similarly familiar but more enclosed escape to the bedrooms; and a Modern open tread steel stair to the attic maximises the daylight from above and enhances the feeling of lightness.

Elsewhere in the home traditional domestic elements are re-appropriated for similar effect; stair balustrades support a desk, picture frames create wardrobe handles and a skirting board becomes a handrail.  The collage of new and sampled elements have been synthesised together with the existing fabric through a universal coat of warm off-white paint, imparting the home with an instant maturity.

AOC is a practice of architects, urbanists and interpreters, established in 2003 by Tom Coward, Daisy Froud, Vincent Lacovara and Geoff Shearcroft.  Building on experience gained at respected practices and regeneration bodies in London and abroad, our architecture is both robustly pragmatic and beautifully imaginative. We embrace challenging projects and encourage clients to be demanding, generating open, honest, generous proposals in response.

Early projects, including the New Centre for Architecture in London, a rural retreat for Stephen Daldry and a ‘house to stimulate different modes of thinking’ for Alain de Botton, and a series of successful competition wins brought AOC to the attention of a wide range of clients and received international attention.

Realised projects include the Janet Summers’ Early Years Centre, Southwark; the redevelopment of the Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds;  the consultative process, design and realisation of the Lift, a demountable performance space for the London International Festival of Theatre; No.1 Lower Carbon Drive, a touring exhibition for the London Development Agency; a number of private residences; and an urban regeneration game for Building Futures/ RIBA and CABE.

Current work includes a new school for pupils with autism; the ongoing development of both Friars Primary and Charles Dickens Primary School; two first-placed housing schemes in the Elephant and Castle regeneration project; a new home for child clients for an exhibition in Stockholm; and a winning master-design for 400 homes in South London.

Winners in the AJ/Corus ‘40 under 40’ and runners up in the Young Architect of the Year 2008, we exhibited at the Venice Biennale 2008.  Our work has been internationally published and exhibited in leading museums and galleries in the UK, Europe and USA.  We have taught at many leading schools of architecture and are the Louis I. Kahn Visiting Assistant Professors at Yale for 2011.  We regularly lecture in the UK and Europe and contribute to contemporary architectural culture through television, radio and public debate.

Click for larger image

Click for larger image

Posted on Tuesday March 9th 2010 at 3:39 pm by Brad Turner. Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Kong

    It is always good to keep a baseball bat next to your entrance door!

  • Anger of the North

    AOC are creating some great work at the moment, definitely a favourite of mine. I LOVE this house and in particular the details within it. I’ll definitely remember this one if I eventually get chance to build my own place!

  • I guess he can afford it, but it seems to be a really vast and elegant place for one single rabbit to live in. Must be a hare or something…

  • Hars

    Did the builders mum cast that concrete?

  • @Kong

    Home alone and without a clearly displayed baseball bat warning trespassers that there will be trouble, the rabbit is left with its cuteness as its only weapon: not very dissuading, as demonstrated by this photo series:


  • win

    love the detail on the concrete!

  • so much to say about this house: gorgeous details,balustrade end simply cute… the fireplace very minimalistic yet elegante, there’s a sense of playfulness around the house, which is something any home should have i guess…

    materials, colour, textures… pfff! be-au-ti-ful!!!
    that conceptual sketch says it all!!!

  • ksdesignworks

    This is a beautiful home! I love the mix of the wood and concrete to create a warm but modern look.

  • great!

    i love the fireplace.

    if you have, please add some details of the kitchen :)

  • Nicely done in a tight space !

  • christian

    I like the interior and that rabbit is hilarious, but the exterior is not great.The doors and windows have been replaced with characterless bi folds that are incongruous with the adjoining house next door. It’s now just looks like someone has intentionally tried to individualise the house (a mistake in my view) and get rid of the repetitive detail that made it so desirable in the first place.

  • andy

    looking good babs!

  • gat

    It looks a bit messy inside, but I like it somehow. It’s good to see architecture different from white modernistic villas. People are living in this space and I think you can have a nice life there. But still, some details are not that nice.
    Really like the concrete fireplace. How is it made ?

  • Looking through the interior pictures I thought this is beautiful: It really captures a slightly eccentric unique britishness through all the different spaces. Then I saw the exterior!

  • jed_

    i really REALLY love those two sketches. the design itself is not for me, to say the least.

  • cindy

    Between the rabbit, card suit cutouts, picture frames on the closet doors, and the incredibly trippy 2nd sketch, I’m left feeling a little “alice in wonderland”

  • I’ve always loved the mix of raw hard material like concrete mixed with softer materials like wood, and I think it really works here. The understated exterior gives little away of the surprising interior, see why they’ve done it but not my taste. I want to try an industrial yet warm look on my own home and this has given me food for thought.

  • Babs

    A beautiful setting for the white rabbit.. so classy!!

    Rumour says shes an up and coming animal star and available for hire..

  • æ

    Most underrated thing are the stories (and experiential/spatial richness) created by angle-ing the circulation in plans.


  • tk

    I think the designers have done a great job. It’s a nice and playful project with a lot of thought.

    The only criticism would be:

    The interior is now overwhelmed by detail. It needs a bit of simplicity to balance all that thoughtful and playful detail. The herringbone pattern on the stairs seem to be the weakest and most excessive of all. The interior is easily nicer without it (the patterning).

  • Firebug

    The baseball bat isn’t by the front door….it’s in the bedroom, which adds a whole new dimension to this multi-textural landscape.

  • charles sound

    good to see some variety!!!!!!!! enjoyabIe pIace for sure!! best.

  • i agree with tk. I think the herringbone in the flooring is sufficient and the fireplace / hearth and staircase would look sharper without it, like the concrete in the other fireplace shown.

    in the first two pictures, it seems the rabbit is facing away from the carrot in the centre of the picture. random but lovely touch!

  • xtiaan

    what does that rabbit do, how can he afford such a cool house?

  • sina

    tank you alot

  • will

    Hmmm… Where to start? The window next to the bedroom door at the top of staircase makes it look like an office. The picture window in the middle of the bookcase is crying out to be a window seat – and I can’t believe someone will want to look at that overwhelming concrete grayness devouring the living room. I bet it will get painted in a couple of years…
    And then there is the outside……………….
    Nice sketch!

  • What a refreshing project. Great to see such an imaginative approach to updating an old home. There's a richness, depth and humour to it that is often missing from the identikit glazed extensions and floaty stairs we are so used to

  • OPA

    miss some participation, some space for the users.. too much designed