Dezeen Magazine

Council House Renovation by VATRAA

VATRAA adds pink plaster walls in south London council house renovation

Architecture studio VATRAA has won a Don't Move, Improve! award with this London council house renovation featuring pink-toned plaster walls and an oversized window.

Called Council House Renovation, the project involved a full refurbishment and remodelling of the two-bedroom home in Bermondsey, south London.

VATRAA's design was a joint winner in the 2021 Compact Design of the Year category for Don't Move, Improve!

Large square window looking into house with people dining
An oversized window creates transparency from front to back in the Council House Renovation

VATRAA's client wanted a warm, contemporary interior that gave her more space but without an extension that would disrupt the appearance of the council estate, which was built in the 1980s.

Instead, the architects aimed to create spaciousness within the small, 76-square-metre flat by making only minimal interventions.

Council House Renovation with pink plaster walls
The architects created a warm and contemporary look

Seeing the opportunities the small seven-by-seven-metre footprint presented for enhanced front-to-back transparency, the architects swapped out an ornamental bay window for a larger clean-lined square one.

It forms a new aesthetic feature and frames views of the evergreen front garden.

Living room with pink plaster walls
Ceiling joists are exposed in the living room

Another key feature is the textured, dusky pink-coloured walls.

This effect is created with what VATRAA describes as a "banal" plaster, British Gypsum Multifinish, avoiding the cost and resources of wall paint altogether.

VATRAA applied the plaster carefully to achieve a textured and slightly reflective finish that responds well to daylight, creating different moods and effects at different times of the day.

Teamed with white ceilings and white-washed oak floors, it forms an aesthetic backdrop to the client's collection of art and design objects.

Oak dining table with light coming through a large window
There are white-washed floors and white ceilings

For the floor plan, VATRAA were guided by the existing stairs and heating source, a pre-feed water tank that is part of a communal system.

To take advantage of its heat, they placed the laundry room around it so clothing would air-dry faster, and the bathroom directly above so the floor tiles would be warmed without additional heating.

White pantry and kitchen cabinets
An angled pantry optimises the space under the stairs

Each of the other spaces is given its own atmosphere according to function.

The architects made the entrance lobby grander by opening the ceiling to the pitched roof and incorporating the old external loggia into the interior.

Kitchen sink in Council House Renovation
The kitchen has bespoke furniture and cabinetry

In the living room, they exposed the previously concealed structural joists in the ceiling, making the 2.4-metre-high space feel loftier.

In the dining room, they created an angled pantry feature that makes the most of the awkward space underneath the stairs and added bespoke solid oak dining furniture.

Staircase with skylight
Different qualities of light create different moods in the house

Upstairs, the two bedrooms are finished in calming all-white to create a contrast to the stimulating warmth of the downstairs living areas.

"The morning transition between the night and day zones becomes an event, giving the homeowner a sensation of energy, immediately as she steps into the stairwell and descends to the ground floor," said VATRAA.

"With thoughtful decisions fully grounded in the context we operated in, we managed to turn a nondescript ex-council house into a home with a distinctive character, now proud to tell its story through space, light and materials."

White bedroom with roof light
The upstairs bedrooms are a contrast in clean white

VATRAA was founded in 2018 by Anamaria Pircu and Bogdan Rusu, who are based across London and Bucharest. They completed the Council House Renovation in 2020.

It was named the Don't Move, Improve! Compact Design of the Year alongside Two and a Half Story House by B-VDS Architecture, another project in a council estate.

Photography is by Jim Stephenson

More images and plans

Council House Renovation by VATRAA ground floor plans
Council House Renovation by VATRAA first floor plans
Council House Renovation by VATRAA roof plans
Council House Renovation by VATRAA cross section
Council estate exterior in Bermondsey, London
Large square window looking into a house
Corridor with pink plaster walls and frame art
Living room with exposed ceiling joists
Exposed joists on a white painted ceiling in a living room
Staircase and dining table in a Council House Renovation
Oak dining table by a large window
Shadows cast on the corner of an oak dining table
Bespoke oak furniture by VATRAA architects
Kitchen with bespoke furniture and cabinetry
Timber console with art objects against a blush pink wall
Bespoke timber furniture by VATRAA
Corner of console with book spines
Staircase viewed from the bottom
White-washed oak floorboards on a staircase
White-washed oak staircase and textured plaster walls
Light and shadows in Council House Renovation
White handrail on a staircase
Looking downstairs at a map on the wall
Skylight in Council House Renovation
View of front garden through window
White bedroom viewed from landing
Warm bedroom with rose-coloured blanket
Clean white door
White finishes against white-washed oak floorboards
Blush-pink bathroom
Back garden in London Council House Renovation
Outdoor table in garden