Located next to Epping Forest, Oak Cottage was originally carefully designed and constructed in an Arts and Crafts style in 1901, but had been added to in a piecemeal fashion since then. These more recent additions included an entire new bay in 2006 which had added a further half to the overall floor area. By the time the house was purchased by our clients, any trace of its original quality had been largely lost.
For our clients and for Dominic McKenzie Architects (DMA) the question was how to change this (spacious and well-located) ugly duckling into a beautiful swan?
Key to the project was the fact that the potentially spacious ground floor was subdivided into an unnecessarily large number of individual rooms. Behind these was a dark corridor, so that on entry to the house there was no sense of connection to the large rear garden, or indeed Epping Forest beyond.
DMA undertook a careful process of rationalisation.
On the rear facade, the existing clunky bay windows at ground floor and dormer windows at roof level were removed and openings across the rear façade were adjusted from top to bottom to align windows. To conceal these adjustments and to add material quality to the rear façade, timber cladding was added which has been treated to protect it and to encourage it to silver. The timber cladding boards are further subdivided with projecting powder-coated metal fins which adds finesse and three-dimensionality to the rear façade’s composition.
Internally, working intricately with the structural engineers Dominic McKenzie Architects completely stripped away all the ground floor internal rooms to leave only the outer walls. The resulting generous ground floor space contains an open-plan living room, dining room and kitchen. Floors and joinery are in pale oak alluding to the house’s name. The kitchen counter and shelf are in white terrazzo.
The oak-clad dropped ceiling above the kitchen is the underside of the existing half landing and staircase returning above. This part of the original house is retained as an expressive curved feature reminiscent of the architecture of Alvar Aalto. The dropped ceiling is in turn supported on a single oak column – the only visible structure in the entire ground floor.