Mezzanine in Grade 1 Listed Basement

The brief


The owners wanted to increase the living space in the flat and take advantage of the opportunities offered by the double height original kitchen (now the main living room for the flat).

The property


The original house, now sub-divided into flats, is one of the four large corner houses in Sussex Square. Until fifteen years ago much of the basement area was un-inhabitable storage with flagstone floors.
Works in 2005 created the flat as it now exists and it is one of two flats located in the basement of the house. The property occupies the original kitchen for the whole house, the servant’s stairs from the basement to the ground floor and some of the basement storage and food preparation rooms.
The property retains a number of original features including a double height kitchen, the original cast iron range, a large timber sliding sash window in the kitchen and York stone stairs leading from the ground level to the basement. A mezzanine gallery at ground floor level, created as part of the earlier refurbishment works, overlooks the double height living room.

The solution


The solution was to extend the mezzanine into one end of the double height living room with access to it through an existing but blocked up opening at ground floor level. The mezzanine has been designed to minimize the impact upon the historic structure of the building with a simple cantilevered structure, no supporting posts, and a frameless glass balustrade.

The result


The mezzanine structure is in place and the work is yet to be finished but already it opens up the flat, creates more space and gives a wonderful new perspective into the old kitchen.
The new structure respects the form, volume, and feel of the original double-height kitchen whilst allowing it to be read as a modern addition to this historic house.

Alterations to Grade 2 Listed Flat

The brief


Change, replace or alter the existing three pairs of French doors and one window to provide workable ventilation for all the habitable rooms and re-arrange the interior to make the best use of the limited space. The property is listed and any works needed both Listed Building consent and planning approval.

The property


The property is a single aspect basement flat at the front of Sillwood Mansions a Grade 2 listed terraced house built in 1829 in the centre of Brighton. It is accessed by separate steps leading down to the entrance at basement floor level. The flats three doors and one window openings are flat arched, they follow the line of the fenestration above and they form a significant element of the front façade of this important heritage building.
The doors were not original and their style did not match anything in the rest of the building. The one remaining window was a boxed sash window but the top no longer existed and had been replaced with two opening casements. None of the fenestration provided adequate or secure ventilation to the living room or the bedrooms which they served.
Internally the layout was very different from the original ‘servant quarters’ and the primary aim was to maximise the useful space in the flat.

The solution


The flat is part of an iconic Listed Building and it was critical that any external changes enhanced the historic front elevation. The openings and principle elevation were maintained but the existing doors and window were replaced with a pair of French doors (forming the front door) and three double-hung vertical sliding sash windows. The doors and the windows were timber of a style reflecting the period and all with a glazing bar pattern matching the windows above.
Internally, walls were straightened, a second WC/shower room added and cupboards built using existing alcoves, spaces, and corners.

The result


Externally, the basement is now in visual harmony with the rest of Sillwood Mansions, the lines of the windows and doors flow from one floor to another. The new doors and windows provide secure ventilation to all rooms and inside the space works efficiently and is clutter free.

“Martin has been absolutely key to the whole project – he is always on hand and happy to help. Very reliable, time efficient and extremely professional I will always use Martin for any future project.”

SH Brighton

Refurbishment of Grade 1 Listed Flat

The brief


The clients met in and fell in love with Brighton and bought the flat as a place to come and live once their lives become less busy. They wanted to refurbish the property to a good modern standard but to retain or put back the historic features, respecting and reflecting its original layout and use as part of the servant’s quarters of the grand house above.

The property


The property is the front part of the basement of a grade 1 listed terraced house built in the 1830s and is located in one of the most iconic groups of heritage buildings in the country. As with all large houses of the era, the basement was the ‘workhorse’ of the house.
The flat was habitable but was suffering from a 1980s makeover, which detracted from the historic aspect of the property.
Originally, a York stone passage ran from the front to back of the basement giving access to the; Housekeeper’s room, Butler’s pantry, numerous food & drink storage rooms, servant’s hall, kitchen, scullery, food storage and servant’s stairs up to the main house. Over time the house and basement have been divided and sub-divided and prior to these most recent works, the flat was a 1980s incarnation.
The living room at the front of the basement was the House keeper’s room and this is the only room in the property that retains its original plan form. The other key feature for which there is evidence is the front part of the York stone passage. Over time ceilings have been lowered, walls built and a kitchen installed in the passage. The plan form of the rest of the flat is a combination of the conversion of the house into flat in the 1920s and the work in the 1980s. The property is listed and any works needed both Listed Building consent and planning approval.

The solution


The proposal was to refurbish the flat whilst at the same time remove the modern features that detract from the historical interpretation of its original plan. If and where possible the client wished to reinstate the layout and details of the property, taking it back to how it was when first built or to a logic point in its history. This wish involved removing modern features, retaining the 1920s alterations that had become part of the historical development of the building (such as the cross-passage) and where evidence existed putting back some original features.
The design solution was to retain the principle layout of the flat but open up and delineate the York stone passage.
The York stone passage has been created by stripping out the kitchen, and the removal of walls, blockwork balustrades, and suspended ceilings. To delineate the passage a York stone floor was laid and the bathroom walls set back. A new kitchen now sits respectfully in the York stone passage.
In the Housekeepers room, all the features added in the 1980s were removed including; the plaster moulding and ceiling rose, the picture rail and skirting boards, the window with bulls-eye glazing, the six-panelled fire doors, the 20th-century fireplace and non-original doorways. In their place is an entrance door in the original location, plain plastered walls and ceiling, a period fireplace and a refurbished parquet floor found under the carpets. New timber window shutters matching original examples have been reinstated in the tracks existing in the box sash windows.
Throughout the flat, the modern and non-original features have been removed and replaced. This includes; new four panelled internal doors (match original doors in other basements in the square) with Regency style rim locks and keeps, a new four panelled timber front door, square-nosed skirting boards reflecting those found in other Regency basements, replacement of the blockwork around the steps to the subterranean cellar with a visually unobtrusive balustrade, contemporary doors to the under-the-pavement cellars and the removal of the ceramic tiles covering the York stone steps and patio at the front of the property.

The result


Walking down the now exposed York stone steps at the front of the flat, worn by generations of servants and owners, the years of wear and the soft buff colour of the stone takes you back 180 years.
Inside the now removed stud walls, dropped ceilings and 1980s paraphernalia make way for what really feels like the original York stone passage. An Aga and minimal kitchen units sit quietly against one wall, almost like a serving table of days gone by. In the old Housekeepers room, the finishes are basic and your eyes are drawn to the cast-iron fireplace, to the renovated parquet floor and to the plain but elegant details and finishes. Period radiators, light switches and fittings and even the flexes give a simple but chic feel.
The recent renovation has created a modern flat in a heritage building of national importance. The refurbishment manages to provide the comforts required of today in a historic setting whilst portraying a little sense of how it was and how it might have felt when it was first inhabited.

“What do you do when you haven’t lived in Brighton for 20 years and you need an excellent architect to take care of a very sensitive Grade I listed apartment refurbishment? We were looking for a diligent, intelligent, creative and personable professional to guide this project through the labyrinthine application process and onwards.

Though he was by no means the first architect that we considered for this project, it is safe to say that we got lucky in holding out until we, at last, came across Martin McCurdy. Upon meeting him the decision was easy. The process smooth. The result a pleasure that will grow with time.

No one should undertake such a project lightly, but should you wish to restore what previous owners before you have repeatedly undermined and be able to live a modern life within it, then I would heartily recommend that you do so with an architect who is as personable as they are skilled. These projects are emotional. Enter into them with a good-hearted and sensitive partner. Thank you, Martin.”

J & W, Brighton

Basement extension

The brief


Turn an unused basement area into an en-suite shower room to give a family with growing teenagers a much-needed extra bathroom and create a balcony.

The property


A three-storey terraced house. The first option was to convert the unused loft, but the ceiling height of the loft was insufficient and the first-floor ceiling could not be dropped. At the back, the house had access to two levels of the rear courtyard, but much of the basement level was taken up with an old WC and store, and the exterior space on the ground-floor level was limited.

The solution


Utilise the space taken up by the old WC by building a basement-level en-suite shower room and using its roof as a balcony.

This necessitated juggling the internal layout to accommodate the new-found space. The basement-level living room and the ground-floor master bedroom were swapped. The living room is now in a lighter and brighter location with better access to the front door. French doors inserted in the rear wall lead from the living room to the new balcony.

The master bedroom now has an en-suite shower room with natural light streaming through glass bricks and sun tubes. A utility room was squeezed in for good measure.

The result


No need for the client to move from the property they loved. Despite limited space, the feel and use of the house has been transformed by utilising the available space more effectively.

Basement flat and loft conversion

The brief


Take advantage of the enormous development potential offered by the property’s loft and the basement, converting the latter into a separate two-bedroom flat with an enclosed private patio to the rear and the loft into additional living accommodation.

The property


The house was a 1930s semi-detached house in a conservation area. It is subject to an Article 4 Direction and the proposed work required detailed liaison with the council’s planning department.

The unused loft space was one of the largest I have ever seen in a normal house and would have lent itself to conversion to a small flat on its own. The basement covered the rear three quarters of the house’s floor plan, with an old garage taking up much of the usable space.

The solution


Extend the basement flat to the rear, creating a new kitchen and living room for the flat and a new balcony for the house above (accessed from the rear ground floor) with steps down to the garden.

Conservation-style roof lights and windows were the only allowable visible alteration to the front. To the rear, the planners were happy with proposals that copied similar examples in the street of the rear dormers and the rear basement extension.

The result


In the basement, the conversion and rear extension create a two-bed flat with bi-folding doors to the rear patio, with a light-well providing light and ventilation to the front bedroom.

The new stairs to the loft rooms follow the line and detailed design of the existing and they flow up to the second-floor landing. The new landing gives access to the spacious bedroom with its large relaxing space, an en-suite bath and shower room and an office.

Refurbishment of Grade 2 Listed Flat

The brief


Refurbish a damp, dark, poorly laid-out basement flat in a Grade 2 listed building. The clients bought the property knowing they would have to carry out substantial work to bring it up to a good habitable standard. They wanted a warm, modern flat they could either live in or rent out.

The property


The flat is in the basement of a four-storey listed terraced house with its own access and a rear walled courtyard. The property was last refurbished in the 1970s. The rooms had been partitioned, there was no fixed heating, the damp proofing had failed and almost all the original features had been lost.

The solution


Remove the 1970s partitions, change the internal layout of the flat to simpler more usable rooms, which better reflect the original layout, whilst retaining the flat’s essential character. Renew all windows and doors, lay a new insulated floor, address the damp, provide fixed heating, and install a new bathroom and kitchen.
As it was a listed building, all the proposed work to the interior and the exterior required listed building consent in addition to the usual planning consent, and details of all the planned works were made in close liaison with the conservation team. At the front, the most important elevation, the stone steps, cast-iron railings and other existing features were retained and repaired. The new front window matches the style and pattern of the original and the front door is a new four-panelled timber door.
To the rear the rotten floor-to-ceiling windows were replaced with sliding doors, maximising light and usable space in the flat and opening it up to the rear courtyard.

The result


A modern, light and warm one-bed flat in the centre of Brighton with the luxury of its own secluded outside space.