Bloomsbury's Doughty Mews may seem at first unassuming – but its rich, modern residential architecture proves otherwise. Jamie Fobert's award-winning Levring House new-build adorns its south corner, while renovations by Piers Ford and Dean Hawkes sit further up the tiny mews street.
The latest addition to this collection comes in the form of a duo of small but perfectly formed house refurbishments by the practice of architect Roz Barr.
The two properties were owned by Goodenough Collage, 'a charitable foundation providing postgraduate accommodation in Bloomsbury', explains Barr, who won the invited competition for the project two years ago. Set within the Bloomsbury Conservation Area of Camden – having originally been used as stables and serving quarters for the more affluent nearby properties of Doughty Street – these buildings needed careful architectural consideration and a design that would respect and nurture their heritage.
The houses' small scale was behind most of the project's key challenges. The architects had to maximise light in the two buildings, which were not allowed to have rear or side openings at all; the team also had to create a sense of space and airiness within a fairly narrow footprint – at the narrowest point each property reached just 1.5m in width.
Barr responded to this challenges with a few confident, small gestures and minimalist flair. The issue of natural lighting was resolved with new roof openings towards the rear of the property. By cleverly keeping the material language simple and using wood panelling and block colouring, the architects were able to give the interiors a sense of spaciousness. Solid oiled timber floorboards run the length of the property to enhance visual continuity.
The structure's fabric was also in desperate need of an update – the original timber frame was retained and reinforced, and the masonry walls were treated for damp and leaks. Existing windows were replaced with black oiled timber framed double glazed elements.
Combining old and new in a historically sensitive and spatially challenging context, Barr and her team created a set of mews houses that punch well above their weight.