News Home & Design Victorian-Era Maisonette Revamped as a Down-to-Earth Residence Preservation and renovation were the way to go with this Victorian-era maisonette. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Published January 9, 2023 02:00PM EST Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Share Twitter Pinterest Email Jim Stephenson News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive "Preserve and renovate" has been a bit of a Treehugger mantra for years. The idea stems from the fact that all those embodied carbon emissions (also known as embodied energy or upfront carbon) are already locked in an existing building. All that embodied energy would go to waste if one were to demolish and build anew, meaning that preserving and upgrading a building is a far more energy- and carbon-efficient option. In the case of one family living in a south London neighborhood, preservation and renovation were the way to go when it came time to revamp their home. The family opted to thoughtfully renovate and extend their Victorian-era maisonette with the help of local firm Nimtim Architects. Aiming to strengthen the connection between inside and out, the skylit rear extension that opens to the home's backyard now makes it feel much more open. Jim Stephenson The new scheme includes an open plan kitchen, dining, and living room in this rear addition, enlarging this lovely small house from a modest 968 square feet to its current size of 1,248 square feet. As the architects explain: "Our clients wanted the home to feel open and connected but not cavernous. Generous openings at the rear create a focal point and frame views from the living spaces and the main bedroom to the secluded rear garden, still defined and wrapped by the original stock brick wall." Jim Stephenson Dubbed "Walled Garden," the project features an earthy palette of natural materials like Douglas fir for the exposed beams, warm-colored tiles in the dining area, and rough plaster on the walls. The stainless steel surfaces of the kitchen offer a striking contrast to these, while also providing a glint of reflected light in the deeper recesses of the home. As the designers note, these were deliberate choices to highlight certain aspects of the client's lifestyle: "Collectively, we wanted the materials to have a rich and timeless quality and be discrete enough to provide a backdrop to the client's collection of art, books and furniture. Douglas fir timber screens and slatted floor planks allow light to permeate, permitting glimpses between spaces reinforcing the sense of connection." The view as seen here extends right through most of the house, with the overhead skylight offering the serenest of lighting over a down-to-earth yet refined interior. The existing brick wall that inserts itself into the scene is skillfully emphasized by a line that the architects carry into the inside of the home: "A datum, defined by the height of the walls in the rear garden is continued throughout. Initially by the continuation of a similar brick internally and then by the introduction of a picture rail or a change in material texture. An exposed aggregate concrete floor extends from the principle living space into the garden to reinforce the connection with the walled garden." Jim Stephenson The front part of the maisonette has been readapted as a guest annex with its own entrance and kitchenette. Such a layout means that the home could also be reconfigured as an intergenerational residence in the future, where elderly grandparents or young adult children might live. Jim Stephenson Upstairs, we find the two bedrooms, and a bathroom. Jim Stephenson The master bedroom itself has a lovely view, which can be found by way of a small balcony that overlooks the extension below. Jim Stephenson The bathroom upstairs also follows much of that down-to-earth palette, using light-colored tile, stone, and lots of natural light to create a contemplative atmosphere in which to relax and unwind. Jim Stephenson Most crucial to the renovation is how the exterior landscaping has been redone to establish interesting points of view, as well as to evoke a sense of peaceful calm: "Nimtim’s concept for the garden was to create something that would be beautiful to look at but that also defined ‘moments’ within it. We proposed lush foliage, ornamental grasses and ferns that could withstand the South facing aspect and equally thrive in the dappled light beneath the canopies of established trees beyond the property. Within this, two seating areas are defined, separated by a wildlife pond and path interwoven with the planting creating moments for pause and contemplation." With water, sun, and plant life all carefully considered in this unpretentious renovation scheme, a small house is made to feel larger and much more integrated with its surroundings—without having to build something new and potentially more carbon-intensive. To see more, visit Nimtim Architects.