Terrace House Reimagined As Flexible and Robust Family Home

The renovation of a 1970s townhouse was designed to transform as the family grows.

Fruit Box renovation by Nimtim Architects interior

Megan Taylor

There's a lot to be said for forward-thinking designs that aim to be flexible and adaptable so that in the near future, they might be more easily transformed for different uses or configurations. Such an approach might be implemented by redesigning larger structures as universal buildings so that they can serve a multitude of other uses, or implementing more broadly versatile interventions like customizable, modular units for habitation.

Such an approach can also be applied to a smaller and more residential scale, such as this adaptable renovation project and extension of a 1970s terrace townhouse in the Forest Hill neighborhood of London, England. Local firm Nimtim Architects (seen here previously) undertook the project with the future growth and evolution of the clients—a family of four—in mind.

Fruit Box renovation by Nimtim Architects interior

Megan Taylor

Dubbed Fruit Box, in reference to the home's location on a former orchard, the architects explain that the creative brief for a "robust and flexible family home" takes into account of home's position as the last in a row of terrace houses, the site's shape, and the existing (and rather large) backyard:

"The house sits on a triangular plot with a large but awkwardly shaped garden. We wanted to celebrate the sense of living amongst fruit trees and below the canopy of the larger trees beyond. At ground floor, views are framed with carefully positioned openings that connect the ground floor in a deliberate but restrained way. By contrast, the first floor bedroom has a wide and generous window that brings the landscape and canopy into the house."

In order to minimize the use of steel and concrete, the home's new extension uses a timber structure that is left exposed from within the interior spaces.

The designers say that by revealing the home's timber bones, it provides a "gentle, humane scale within the space." In addition, there are some non-structural partitions made of plywood and planed softwood, which can be used to increase privacy or removed to create more space.

Fruit Box renovation by Nimtim Architects partition

Megan Taylor

These partitions create a series of semi-open spaces that are intended to be flexible in their use, whether that might be for working, eating, playing or resting. Here we find the family's remodeled kitchen, dining area, as well as a family room where the two young children can play under adult supervision.

Fruit Box renovation by Nimtim Architects living room

Megan Taylor

The kitchen is characterized by minimalist cabinetry done in high-quality plywood and subtle, barely-there metal hardware.

The "visually and acoustically warm" texture of exposed timber and plywood is offset by the bright, slick surface of white tiled countertops and a large, tiled kitchen island right in the center of the action. A slim lighting fixture hangs overhead, lighting the entire space, while underneath, there are plenty of built-in cubbies to store books or kitchen equipment within easy reach.

Fruit Box renovation by Nimtim Architects kitchen

Megan Taylor

There is an honesty and simple utility in the architectural expression here: the horizontal blocking used in the exposed timber framing here can also be used as a display shelf.

Fruit Box renovation by Nimtim Architects blocking

Megan Taylor

The floor is made with hard-wearing grey and blue linoleum, overlaid with triangular designs, creating a visual contrast with the warmly textured, rectilinear wooden structure. The architects suggest that:

"This triangular pattern will eventually inform the garden landscaping, helping to resolve the awkward topography of the garden and providing further contrast with the geometry of the house."

The extension is primarily lit with natural light, which streams in from the skylight above.

Fruit Box renovation by Nimtim Architects skylight

Megan Taylor

The windows at the rear of the extension span from floor to ceiling, maximizing the amount of natural light illuminating the interior space.

Fruit Box renovation by Nimtim Architects patio door

Megan Taylor

Two of these large windows can be opened up to provide access to the angular wooden deck which has now been built there, as well as the rest of the home's backyard.

Fruit Box renovation by Nimtim Architects backyard

Megan Taylor

Designing for multifunctional flexibility and future readaptation proved to be quite fruitful (pardon the pun), as the project was completed during the initial onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic. As the architects point out:

"The house is now home to a 2 and 5 year old, and provides a playful and suitably robust backdrop to family life. The articulation of spaces has come into is own during lockdown, allowing different activities to occur throughout the house without disruption."

To see more, visit Nimtim Architects.