House Recast wins ‘Don't Move, Improve' competition

Studio Ben Allen’s colourful House Recast is revealed as the overall winner of the ‘Don't Move, Improve' competition in London, among a strong list of nominees and several further category awards

house recast wins don't move improve 2021 overall prize
Overall winner: House Recast by Studio Ben Allen
(Image credit: French + Tye)

Studio Ben Allen's House Recast has been crowned the overall winner at the ‘Don't Move, Improve' competition in London. The playfully colourful architecture of the home stood out to the judging panel from 22 shortlisted designs that celebrated home improvement and everyday, yet exceptional domestic design. The main prize is awarded following a string of announcements regarding sub-category wins, including gongs for working-from-home designs and unique character. Studio Ben Allen's work topped the charts with a home that ‘pushes the boundaries of how homes can look and feel', say the judges. 

The 2021 shortlist for ‘Don’t Move, Improve’ highlighted a series of projects mostly completed during a year of on-and-off lockdowns. The architects responded with fun and playful designs across London, many of them defined by colour, pattern and texture, and a sense overall lightness that brings a smile to the everyday. That said, the list is indeed expansive and diverse, covering projects of all sizes and works by both young and established studios. 

Bathroom with green titles and golden tap

Overall winner: House Recast by Studio Ben Allen

(Image credit: French+Tye)

The competition, organised annually by New London Architecture (NLA) is currently in its 11th 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.

Aside from the main prize, further home improvement category winners were announced, one per week, throughout the month of May and include: Grain House by Hayhurst & Co for Materiality & Craftsmanship Prize; Cloistered Houses, Lambeth, by Turner Architects for Urban Oasis of the Year; Two and a Half Story House, Hackney, by BVDS Architects, and Council House Renovation, Southwark, by VATRAA are joint winners for Compact Design of the Year; Terrazzo Studio, Hackney, by Sonn Studio for WFH Design of the Year; ER Residence by Studio Hallett Ike for Best project under £100k; Mountain View, Bromley, by CAN for Unique Character Prize; and Segal House by Fraher & Findlay Architects for the Environmental Leadership Prize. 

‘Particularly on trend with the shift to home-based working is the WFH Design of the Year, Terrazzo Studio,’ say the organisers. ‘The project adds some much needed workspace at the bottom of a garden attached to a one-bedroom flat. Designed and built by its architect owner, the space was finished for the sum of £25,000! The morning commute now means a stroll through a tropical paradise, and on non-work days the studio can double as a guest room, with fully functional fold-out furniture. The special prizes this year highlight the fact that costs needn't restrict our imagination when deciding how we want to live. Greenery can be subtly threaded through the home and materials can be added to enliven even the dullest of walls.'

Council House Renovation, Southwark by VATRAA, kitchen

Compact Design of the Year joint winner: Council House Renovation, Southwark, by VATRAA. 

(Image credit: Jim Stephenson)

Two And A Half Storey House Bvds Architects Phots By French Tye Dsc 9129 Hires

Compact Design of the Year joint winner: Two and a Half Story House, Hackney, by BVDS Architects. 

(Image credit:  French + Tye)

ER Residence for Studio Hallett Ike

 Best project under £100k: ER Residence for Studio Hallett Ike.

(Image credit: Stale Eriksen)

Materiality & Craftsmanship Prize: Grain House by Hayhurst & Co

Materiality & Craftsmanship Prize: Grain House by Hayhurst & Co.

(Image credit: Killian O'Sullivan)

Mountain View, Bromley by CAN

Unique Character Prize: Mountain View, Bromley, by CAN

(Image credit: Jim Stephenson)

Terrazzo Studio, Hackney by Sonn Studio

WFH Design of the Year: Terrazzo Studio, Hackney, by Sonn Studio.

(Image credit: Sarah Burton Fielding)

Urban Oasis of the Year: Cloistered Houses, Lambeth, by Turner Architects

Urban Oasis of the Year: Cloistered Houses, Lambeth, by Turner Architects

(Image credit: Adam Scott)

Segal House by Fraher and Findlay Architects

Environmental Leadership Prize: Segal House by Fraher & Findlay Architects

(Image credit: Taran Winkhu)


Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director 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), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).