Notting Hill, London, England
Architects: Studio [D] Tale
With some roots in Kenya, and a myriad of memories from years of living in several global cities, a private client purchased an old Victorian row house with the goal of creating an escape – an abode that would offer a getaway from the daily grind of London life while creating an urban oasis reminiscent of their eclectic past.
Located west of central London, in the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the district of Notting Hill is a largely gentrified area of Victorian townhouses and private gardens that retains the dynamism of its working-class roots. Best known as host to the world’s second biggest carnival (after Rio’s Mardi Gras) and home to the famous Portobello Road markets, it is also a destination for culture buffs and those seeking a quintessential London experience.
As a lawyer working in the city, the client wanted a home that provided a very creative contrast from their work. To transform the nondescript three storey house into the desired refuge, the client turned to Safia Qureshi, an old friend and architect able to translate their amalgam of ideas into reality, as well as allow them to participate in the process and implementation. This was the first residential project for Studio [D] Tale, a young and global mutli-disciplinary firm led by Qureshi in London, and Maxwell Mutanda in Harare, Zimbabwe, and Cape Town, South Africa.
Christened “Peponi” which means paradise in Swahili, the house was designed to evoke a back door to Nairobi, Kenya, via multiple stops throughout continental Africa.
The house was completed with natural materials and hand-made tiles sourced that sustain traditional manufacturing techniques. Large skylights direct natural day light into the top floor open plan living and kitchen space, reducing dependence on artificial lighting. This concept was continued on in the wet room, which features a dramatic sky light above the rain shower to create an indoor-outdoor bathing experience. A luxurious terrace creates a sanctuary for tropical plants to create a colourful meditative space.
Being an older house, there were significant structural challenges to deal with. According to Safia Qureshi:
The first was to allow level access to the terrace where previously there existed a concrete beam. This had to either be removed entirely or the landing to the terrace made shorter. Secondly, the old layout had partitioned off part of the living space as a kitchen. This had to be entirely opened up, with loads from the roof structure (butterfly ceiling) being supported by extending out the living room wall. Thirdly, structure holding up the bathroom had been poorly constructed and had to be structurally repaired to take the weight of the new bespoke staircase.
Party Wall Notices had to be submitted to neighbours on both sides of the property to allow for these changes, and an engineer was appointed to draw up structural drawings to evaluate the work. In the living area, a non assisted flue was built in to allow for a functional and naturally ventilated fireplace.
To reflect the client’s own multi-lingual, multi-cultural background and lifestyle, emerging London based African designers such as Tola Ojualape, Yinka Ilori and Eva Sonaike were brought in to help transform the spaces into a physical expression of a ‘Wish you were here’ postcard greeting; a physical and ephemeral ‘home from home’ experience.
The kitchen utensils were hand made from Mvule wood carved in Kenya, textiles by Eva Sonaike made in Nigeria, brass ironmongery was sourced from Kenya, hand made pigment tiles from Morocco, glass tiles for the front door were sourced from Kenya, chair in bedroom was by emerging designer Yinka Ilori.
The client was also keen to keep sustainability at the forefront when choosing materials and pieces, to keep carbon footprint to a minimum.
With the exception of the kitchen cupboards, all joinery in the house was custom made and part of the design proposal. Custom made leather pull handles by Spinneybeck were specified for the living room sliding cupboards. In the bedroom, cupboards with slim pull handles routed out of the wood were designed for a minimal contemporary look.
Glass shelving joinery in the kitchen was also bespoke, made from toughened laminated glass. Carrara marble was chosen for the kitchen counter top and back splash. The integrated lighting detail was designed as a unique feature to allow illumination of the work surface while cooking.
Additional storage was added in the 4-meter high kitchen space, and the upper levels of the bedroom.
Tying the vast collection of elements together in a cohesive manner throughout the house required careful use of colours.
White was deliberately selected as a dominant unifying colour to allow the furniture and artwork to pop. It also gives the freedom for change further down the line.
The main spaces of the house, as described by Studio [D] Tale, consisted of:
Nuru /noun – Light
Chombo /noun – vessel
Clad in naturally stained Oak, the wire brush flooring accentuates the wood grain when walking bare foot.
Vintage Iron Bowl by Far Global
Maji /noun – water
Hand made cement pigment tiles from North Africa were sourced to create a splash of colour through geometric patterns.
Floor Lamp by Soane, Antique furniture pieces by Far Global, Armchair by Alvin T and cushion by House of Arike. Rug by Moroso. Basket Table by Gong. Turned table by Workhouse Collection. Woven Mats and Basket by Rush Matters.
The Wet Room
Mvua /noun – rain
An indoor/outdoor wet room at the highest point of house creates a tree house quality, removing itself from the main living spaces.
Antique chair by Far Global.
The Living Room
Joto /noun – heat
Original Victorian butterfly ceiling opens up to create 4-meter tall wall spaces. Bespoke joinery houses a fireplace to create a sense of community and warmth.
Day Bed and Tables by Moroso, Rug by Chaplins, Poufs by Eva Sonaike, Arm Chair and Screen by Far Global, Floor Lamp and Sculpture Necklaces by Gong, Turned Tables by Workhouse Collection, Art Work by Duval Timothy.
Kupika /verb – to cook
Blue toughened glass for bespoke joinery showcases ingredients and utensils for multi-cultural cooking. Carrara marble in a naturally honed finish creates a smooth surface for food preparation.
Tray by Established & Sons, Wooden Utensils by Kirsten Hecktermann.
What started off for the architects as an exploration of contemporary Africa-influenced living resulted in a home turned into an trans-continental oasis, sheltering the client from the city’s tedious pace while relaying their personal journeys and memories throughout the Africa.