Are these London's best home improvements of the year?

The 2021 shortlist for the coveted ‘Don't Move, Improve' competition in London has been revealed and demonstrates a playful twist to home improvements

Terrazo Studio by Sonn Studio
Terrazo Studio by Sonn Studio.
(Image credit: Sarah Burton Fielding)

If the 2021 shortlist for ‘Don't Move, Improve' is anything to go by, then home improvements during a year of on-and-off lockdowns have resulted in a series of fun and playful projects. The coveted London-wide competition's nominees have just been announced and it's clear that colour is king and unexpected designs that bring a sense of lightness to the everyday have been the order of the day in the UK capital. 

That said, the list is expansive and diverse, covering the aforementioned exuberant designs, but also anything from sober, modernist-inspired abodes, to small scale extensions, garden outbuilding additions and Scandinavian-influenced interiors in every corner of London. It features young and established practices alike, including studios such as Hayhurst and Co, Office S&M, Eckford Chong, and Nimtim Architects.

Overcast House by Office S&M

Overcast House by Office S&M

(Image credit: Megan Taylor)

The competition, organised annually by New London Architecture (a.k.a. NLA) is currently in its eleventh year. For 2021, the judges (a panel including NLA curator in chief Peter Murray, NLA managing director Tamsie Thomson, property expert, journalist and TV presenter Kunle Barker, and Groupwork director and architect Amin Taha) received some-200 applications, which they narrowed down to the 22 shortlisted designs. 

‘Don't Move, Improve! is for everyone, that's why we select a spread of projects with a range of budgets and client briefs,' says Thomson. ‘It is remarkable what can be achieved when the client and their designer are in sync. We have seen projects that are muted and some with hyper-trendy futuristic colour palettes, in every case though, the Top 100, and especially the shortlist have impressed us with the way in which they address the needs of the homeowner, which of course, is the most important function of a home.'

Apart from the overall winner, prizes this year also include special home improvements' categories: Urban Oasis of the Year, Compact Design of the Year, WFH Design of the Year, Best project under £100K and the Environmental Leadership Prize. All will be revealed later in the year.

Cloistered House

A Cloistered House by Turner Architects Ltd

(Image credit: TBC)

Alexander Owen Architecture Amott Road

Amott Road by Alexander Owen Architecture

(Image credit: French + Tye)

Claire And Toms Home by Zminkowska De Boise Architects

Claire And Tom’s Home by Zminkowska De Boise Architects

(Image credit: Tom Cronin)

Council House Renovation

Council House Renovation by Vatraa

(Image credit: Jim Stephenson)

Elmfield Road

Elmfield Road by Eckford Chong

(Image credit: Chris Snook)

ER Residency

ER Residency by Hallet Ike

(Image credit: Stale Eriksen )

House Recast

The House Recast by Studio Ben Allen.

(Image credit: French + Tye)

Grain House Killian Osullivan External

Grain House by Hayhurst and Co

(Image credit: Killian O’Sullivan)

Women reading news paper in hackney

House in Hackney by YARD Architects

(Image credit: Richard Chivers)

Lydford Road

Lydford Road by Artefact

(Image credit: Ivan Jones)

Mo-Tel House

Mo-Tel House by Office S&M.

(Image credit: French + Tye)

Mountain View House

Mountain View House by CAN

(Image credit: Jim Stephenson )

Fruit Box

Fruit Box by Nimtim Architects

(Image credit: Megan Taylor)

Origami House

Origami House by KSKa Architects

(Image credit: Agnese Sanvito)

Peckham Rye House

Peckham Rye House by Draper Studio

(Image credit: Christian Brailey)

St Mary's House

St Mary’s House by Paul Archer Design

(Image credit: Andy Stagg)

Two And A Half Storey House

Two And A Half Storey House by Bradley Van Der Straeten Architects

(Image credit: French + Tye)

Umfreville road

Umfreville road by The DHaus Company

(Image credit: press)


Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).