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Skylit kitchen

VATRAA transforms "introverted" artist's studio into light-filled London home

Architecture studio VATRAA has converted a former artist's studio in west London into a house featuring a six-metre-high lightwell that allows daylight to reach a new basement level.

London and Bucharest-based VATRAA was tasked with converting and expanding the 67-square-metre studio in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea into a bright four-bedroom home.

Skylit living area of London house
VATRAA has converted a former artist's studio into a house

The existing building, which is hemmed in on all sides, comprised an open ground floor and a mezzanine positioned beneath a partially glazed roof.

Its dense urban context required an innovative solution to increase the floor area while introducing natural light throughout the spaces.

Skylit kitchen by VATRAA
Capturing natural light was key to the transformation

"The main challenge was to add four bedrooms to a space that had no windows, being surrounded by neighbours on all four sides," explained VATRAA.

"Capturing natural light within an introverted development became the main theme of the project."

Interior of converted artist studio in London
Glass walls help light to filter through

The studio's interior was reconfigured and the building was extended four metres below ground to create 77 square metres of additional floor space.

A lightwell brings natural light to the lowered ground floor and a new basement level, while daylight entering through the glazed roof reaches the rooms below via a stairwell and openings in the floor slabs.

Skylit study
There is a study lit by a skylight

Bedrooms are accommodated in the secluded basement, while the ground level houses an entrance lobby, meditation room and study. The main living areas are located on the bright and airy first floor.

The various functional zones are distributed across the home's three floors, with different uses of light and materials helping to lend each space a unique character.

Steel staircase in house by VATRAA
A steel staircase links the three floors of the house

"By turning constraints into opportunities, we transformed an open-space studio into a journey of atmospheres, developed on contrasts such as dark-light, warm-cold, or intimate-open," the studio explained.

"Inspired by the clients' interest in spirituality and meditation, we explored the spiritual quality of space through views, light and materials orchestrated in a simple, calm composition."

Entrance to west London house by VATRAA
The slender stairwell also helps filter light to the basement

The basement, which is the most intimate area of the house, contains two bedrooms and a bathroom arranged around the lightwell.

Full-height openings with minimal wooden frames connect the rooms with an outdoor space, where there is a pebble-covered garden and carefully positioned planting.

The semi-private ground floor spaces receive natural light from the lightwell and from the floor above. The study, meditation space and shower room are also configured to look onto the lightwell.

A new stair with a rooflight above connects the three levels. The stair is made of slender eight-millimetre-thick steel to help minimise disruption to the flow of light.

Mediation space with glass wall
There is also a six-metre-high lightwell

In the study, a glass wall provides a connection to the stairwell, while another skylight illuminates the room from above.

The open-plan first-floor living area contains a kitchen, dining area and lounge set beneath the pitched roof. Planning constraints required half of the glazed roof to be covered for privacy reasons.

Basement bedroom
The bedrooms are contained in the secluded basement

Internal finishes are designed to optimise the flow of daylight, while the furniture and fittings were specified to create a sense of cohesion throughout the home.

The architects also worked with the clients to develop 20 freestanding furniture items. Custom made from solid oak and stainless steel, these are intended to complement the house's raw surfaces including the concrete floor, plaster walls and timber ceilings.

Pebble-lined courtyard
There is a small outdoor area lined with pebbles

VATRAA was founded in 2018 by architects Anamaria Pircu and Bogdan Rusu. Its work on the studio conversion has seen it shortlisted for this year's Don't Move, Improve! competition.

The studio recently picked up an award for an extension to a council house in London featuring pink plaster walls, and also designed a brick-clad extension to a Victorian house featuring a circular blue window.

The photography is by VATRAA.

More images and plans

Basement plan of artist studio conversion by VATRAA
Basement plan
Ground floor plan of artist studio conversion by VATRAA
Ground floor plan
First floor plan of artist studio conversion by VATRAA
First floor plan
Roof plan of artist studio conversion by VATRAA
Roof plan
Section of artist studio conversion by VATRAA
Section of artist studio conversion by VATRAA
Skylit staircase
Steel staircase
Stairwell with pendant light
Interior of converted artist studio in London
Pebble-lined courtyard
Green bathroom
Bathroom of converted artist studio in London
Interior of converted artist studio in London
Interior of converted artist studio in London