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Layered Meaning

Historical roots, the present, and everything else in between factor in this refurbishment by VW+BS writes Rachel Lee-Leong.

Layered Meaning


February 20th, 2013

This terrace house in Notting Hill, London is a historical record of sorts. The Uxbridge Street House had previously undergone several refurbishments, each one leaving its imprint on the house. For the owner who has a background in architecture, the house he bought is a sum of parts – each layer tracking the many lives the house has lived over the years since the mid 1800s.


“Unlike most clients who want a home that is either completely remodelled or one that retains the original architecture in contrast to contemporary insertions, he wanted the house to be a palimpsest,” says Wong. “Previous layers were to be retained and melded with our interventions.”


For the client, the house was to be a home as well as a gallery for his growing collection of contemporary art and design. Taking this into consideration, Wong reconfigured the circulation of the house. Here, instead of doggedly keeping to Victorian terraced housing tradition of having the stairs hug the side walls, Wong placed the staircase squarely in the middle of the house, parallel to the front facade of the house. This clearly divides the house into a more public domain in front and private domestic spaces at the rear.


Articulated in thin red steel, the staircase is obviously expressed as a new, modern insertion. As with much of the house, Wong makes it easy to differentiate between the new and the old by carefully juxtaposing the two. The result is a rich interior that speaks volumes of its past while maintaining strong ties with its present.



“By adopting the layered approach, we found ourselves designing junctions between old painted walls and oak chevron parquet, honed marble and raw plaster, an existing terrazzo floor and oxide painted steel,” says Wong. Undoubtedly more complex than adding on a blanket of new finishes, this intricate weaving of old and new materials called for “every detail in every corner to be studied and considered individually”. In the case of this house, God is truly in the details.

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