Gingerbread House
by Laura Dewe Mathews

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Rounded shingles create wooden scales across the walls of this small house in Hackney that architect Laura Dewe Mathews has built for herself (+ slideshow).

Gingerbread House by Laura Dewe Matthews

Nicknamed the Gingerbread House by neighbours, the two-storey house sits behind the reconstructed wall of a former Victorian box factory and its tall windows overlap the mismatched brickwork.

Gingerbread House by Laura Dewe Matthews

"I and the planners were keen to retain something of the original building envelope," Laura Dewe Mathews told Dezeen. "The pale grey/blue bricks were part of the workshop when I bought it and the clean London stock bricks were infills."

Gingerbread House by Laura Dewe Matthews

The architect drew inspiration from decorative vernacular architecture in Russia to design the cedar-shingle facade, then added windows framed by thick galvanised steel surrounds.

Gingerbread House by Laura Dewe Matthews

"I was keen that the cladding somehow softened the sharp silhouette of the overall, stylised building form and thought the round 'fancy butts' might achieve this," she said. "Contemporary architecture can often be perceived to be severe and alienating and I wanted to avoid that. I hope the balance of the sharp galvanised steel window reveals and cills versus the round singles manages to be more friendly."

Gingerbread House by Laura Dewe Matthews

To avoid overlooking neighbouring houses, all windows had to be placed on the north-facing street elevation, so Dewe Mathews also added a large skylight to bring in natural light from above.

Gingerbread House by Laura Dewe Matthews

A double-height kitchen and dining room sits below this skylight on one side of the house and opens out to a small patio. The adjoining two-storey structure contains a living room on the ground floor, plus a bedroom, bathroom and small study upstairs.

Gingerbread House by Laura Dewe Matthews

Walls and ceilings are lined with timber panels, while a resin floor runs throughout the house.

Gingerbread House by Laura Dewe Matthews

The building was the winner of the AJ Small Projects Awards 2013. Also nominated was a wooden folly that cantilevers across a garden lake and a reed-covered tower that functions as a camera obscura.

Gingerbread House by Laura Dewe Matthews

Scale-like facades have featured in a few buildings over the last year, including a university building in Melbourne and an apartment block in alpine Slovenia.

Gingerbread House by Laura Dewe Matthews

Photography is by Chloe Dewe Mathews.

Gingerbread House by Laura Dewe Matthews

Above: the original site

Here's a project description from Laura Dewe Mathews:

Box House / "Gingerbread House"

This is the first new build project by Laura Dewe Mathews. The motivation for the project was to create a domestic set of spaces with generous proportions and lots of natural light while working with a limited budget.

Gingerbread House by Laura Dewe Matthews

Above: ground floor plan - click above for larger image

The site was originally part of the garden of an early Victorian end of terrace house in Hackney. It was first built on in the 1880s, to provide Mr Alfred Chinn (the then resident of the end of terrace house) with space for his box factory, making wooden boxes for perfume and jewellery.

Gingerbread House by Laura Dewe Matthews

Above: first floor plan - click above for larger image

In discovering the history of the site, Laura Dewe Mathews was drawn to assemble yet another box inside the original envelope of the factory.

Gingerbread House by Laura Dewe Matthews

Above: cross section through kitchen and dining room

The one bed, new-build house was recently completed using a cross-laminated timber super structure, placed inside the existing perimeter brickwork walls and rising up out of them. The timber structure has been left exposed internally. Externally the palette of materials is limited to the original and infill brickwork, round "fancy-butt" western red cedar shingles and galvanised steel flashings, window frames and window reveals. The soft shape of the shingles contrasting with the crisp edges of the galvanized steel.

Gingerbread House by Laura Dewe Matthews

Above: cross section through living room and bedroom

The form of the proposal was a response to tricky site constraints, common for urban developments in already built up areas. The neighbours’ rights to sunlight, daylight and privacy needed to be respected. Consequently the only elevation that could have any windows was the north facing, pavement fronted elevation. The proposal counters this with large south facing roof-lights; added to this, light is brought into the main living spaces via a new private yard.

Gingerbread House by Laura Dewe Matthews

Above: front elevation

At 80msq the result is a small yet generously proportioned house. At ground floor level it retains the openness of the original workshop while feeling a sense of separation from the street immediately adjacent.

Gingerbread House by Laura Dewe Matthews

Above: side elevations

Structural engineer: Tall Engineers
Main contractor: J & C Meadows, now incorporated within IMS Building Solutions

Gingerbread House by Laura Dewe Matthews

Above: rear elevation

Sub contractor/suppliers:
KLH – cross laminated timber super structure
Stratum – resin flooring
Vincent timber – cedar shingle supplier
The Rooflight Company – roof light supplier
Roy Middleton – bespoke joinery including kitchen
MPM engineering – stainless steel to kitchen

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  • bill


  • Juliet

    An unexpected delight, like a cabin in the woods – though the woods in this case are the Victorian terraces of Hackney.

  • The fox


  • Nick Simpson

    I absolutely love this house. Very jealous! Perfect example of tying a new, modern house into an existing context without being brash or abrasive. Great balance between clean, sharp details and maintaining a sense of warmth.

  • John

    This is stunning. Wish I could copy it in my 2-bed Crackney flat but fear it may look ridiculous in another context.

  • janine

    Gorgeous and whimsical. A great little house.

  • JayCee

    Scarpa meets Hackney

  • deborah

    Ugly beyond words! Is everyone blind?

  • Nozza

    Very cute. Well done Laura and Hackney planners. You see lots of these kinds of shingles in Klosters too.

  • Nick

    I’m loving the details (gutter, window frame, etc). Really great project. Deborah, you have no taste.

  • James

    Subtle and beautiful. Thank you Laura. More please.

  • Rach

    Stumbled across this little gem round the corner from where I live – it’s a completely charming little addition to the street.

  • jef

    Refined work, beautiful.

  • Ali

    Great proportions within the given space, lovely detailing, nice use of materials all round. Very talented architect.