Patterned brickwork surrounds
Atelier ChanChan's Herringbone House


Pale bricks are arranged in a herringbone pattern on the outer walls of this compact house in north-east London that architect Zoe Chan designed and built for herself (+ slideshow).

Herringbone House by Atelier ChanChan

The Atelier ChanChan principal wanted the house to relate to the Victorian terraces that characterise London's housing stock but to also have its own character, so she chose a steel frame infilled with a non-load-bearing herringbone brickwork, instead of the typical English and Flemish brick bonds.

Herringbone House by Atelier ChanChan

"The choice to use brick creates a visual reference to the masonry construction of this particular street," Chan told Dezeen. "However this isn't a terrace, it's quite different in character, so I chose to create my own personal expression using brickwork as the basis."

Herringbone House by Atelier ChanChan

Named Herringbone House, the two-storey structure slots into a non-linear plot that previously accommodated a series of derelict buildings, all of which had to be demolished beforehand. "It was in such bad repair, so everything needed to come down," said Chan.

Herringbone House by Atelier ChanChan

One of the biggest challenges was ensuring that light would be able to reach all parts of the 30-metre-long plot. As such, the house takes on an L-shaped plan that wraps around private courtyards at the front and back to allow light to permeate both floors.

Herringbone House by Atelier ChanChan

Two skylights puncture the gabled roof to draw extra light in from above. One sits directly above the stairwell, where Chan has added a steel staircase with open risers to allow more light through.

Herringbone House by Atelier ChanChan

For the interior, white-washed timber floors and surfaces are complemented by Scandinavian furniture, and a variety of soft grey and pinkish hues.

Herringbone House by Atelier ChanChan

"I wanted to use materials that are very natural but also warm," said Chan. "The idea was to maximise light, but I didn't want it to be sterile, so I drew inspiration from Scandinavian architecture and its light natural palettes."

Herringbone House by Atelier ChanChan

An open-plan layout on the ground floor brings the living room and kitchen alongside one another, while a small study sits to one side and opens out to the front courtyard through a wall of glazing.

Herringbone House by Atelier ChanChan

Three bedrooms are located beneath the sloping ceilings of the top floor and feature built-in storage units designed to add to the thickness of the walls.

Herringbone House by Atelier ChanChan

Photography is by Mike Tsang.

Here's a short description from  Zoe Chan:

Herringbone House

The house aims to relate to its context by taking the syntax of the local vernacular: namely gable ended roofs and the brick material of the Victorian terraces. However, the open plan interiors with ceiling to floor windows, skylights and courtyards are supported by a modern steel structure.

Herringbone House by Atelier ChanChan

The combination making for a modern vernacular house inspired by the old to create something new. The ornamental herringbone brickwork was used to create personal expression and to articulate the picture windows and volumes by using framing, pattern and variety in the laying of the bricks.

Herringbone House by Atelier ChanChan

Practice name: Atelier ChanChan
Team: Zoe Chan (lead designer), Bob Chan and Joao Neves
Location: Islington, London

Herringbone House by Atelier ChanChan
Ground floor plan
Herringbone House by Atelier ChanChan
First floor plan
Herringbone House by Atelier ChanChan
Long section - click for larger image
  • alex

    Beautiful spaces and detailing, but I’d be concerned with having a bathroom window that large facing the street.

    • Dr Lucien Sanchez

      Frosted glazing no?

      Such beautiful detailing. Doubt that brickwork was cheap though!

    • Dil Phagami

      Also the master bedroom doesn’t seem to have any windows, except a skylight :/

  • Alun

    The door handles are really high.

  • mitate

    Can’t believe there’s not going to be some whip in those cantilevered stair treads. Now familiar form over function staircase routine. Rarely see swiss-type door/frame units in the UK. Bit pricey. Developers have smelling salts handy. Nice fresh project though.

  • Amanda

    Does anyone else notice you have to walk through bedroom 1 to get to bedroom 2?

  • Beau

    Bathroom windows and the height of the door handles – are these comments for real?

    What I want to know is how the architect got sign off on the stairs. I love them but can’t see how they would meet UK Building Regs. I’m clearly missing something!

  • LOW

    No you don’t.

    • Amanda

      Isn’t that a huge void in the middle? Or do you not know how to read plans?

      • James

        Isn’t that a roof light above? Or do you not know how to read plans?

      • LOW

        I’m sorry to say that that “void” is a skylight.

        • Bel

          Why would you mark out the skylight on the FLOOR plan?

          • LOW

            Because it’s called a “projection”… Seriously?

      • Misty

        Do you not know how to read the plans, even in conjunction with the sections? Clearly a skylight, not a void.

  • Alun

    We left that obvious one to you. Would be great to see an architect design some stairs that meet building regs.

  • Concerned Citizen

    Those lavatories in the master toilets – I bet it hurts your head when you lean over to spit out the toothpaste. Oh, that’s right. The Brits don’t fool with dental hygiene.

  • jt

    Wow, I remember looking at this plot when it came up for sale (It went for more than twice the asking price at auction – I think in 2010?) and came with free abandoned Landrover. Nice project but I think it would have been good to have some planting rather than a parking space in the south facing courtyard.

  • john

    Wealthy AA Students building their selves exuberant houses.. Nothing like dispelling the ivory tower theory syndrome for architecture!