I've said it before, and I will no doubt say it again, but with some houses you don't even need to see inside - you're 'sold' from the exterior.



This three bedroom townhouse at 47 Old Church Street in London's Chelsea area is one of those houses. Developers Echlin (recently cited by The Sunday Times as a designer/developer to watch) described the property as “an important landmark for contemporary British architecture in the Royal Borough.” The developers worked on the project with TDO Architecture (tdoarchitecture.com) and this new build townhouse combines elegant architecture with an inspired palette of materials – just look at the façade with its combination of brick and bronze.

I caught up with Echlin’s co-founder and Design Director Sam McNally to talk about the project.

What led you to this site in Chelsea?

We purchased the site off market from an elderly gentleman who had lived there for 40 years. It was previously a post war fill-in house of no architectural merit and poor construction. We saw a rare opportunity to replace the existing house with a landmark piece of architecture on one Chelsea’s oldest street that sits harmoniously within the historic streetscape. We maintained a relationship with the previous owner and despite his heavy attachment to the original property, he trusted us to turn it in to something beautiful and he loves what we achieved. This project was more than just a case of increasing the square footage for financial gain; we wanted to make a home we would be proud of.

How did you decide on the external palette?

We wanted to use rich materials in a contemporary form that would sit harmoniously in the streetscape. The way that bronze gently but confidently reflects light enhances this ambition. Old Church Street has a mix of architectural styles, from a Walter Gropius designed property at no.66 to more period offerings like the Old Rectory – one of London’s largest private homes. This variation in existing styles allowed us the opportunity to be really creative on the exterior design, and create something totally unique.

What was the brief for the internal layout?

We wanted to maintain an open plan layout to make the most of the space on each floor. We didn't want space wasted on circulation areas such as corridors, and we turned functional items like the staircase into something beautiful. The artisan staircase acts as the building’s spine being open to the principal living areas on all floors. A patinated steel balustrade seamlessly winds up the house linking all floors together. The stairs sit elegantly cantilevered from the central floor plates, leaving a small void to pass light from an oversized skylight right down to the kitchen at lower ground level. Each hand made smoked timber tread features an elegant bronze insert to complement the building’s architecture. We believe that some of the grandeur, originating back in the Renaissance period, has been lost in staircase design, and it’s something we enjoy spending a huge amount of time on. From the experience of using them to the craftsmanship involved, we want to create staircases that are more than just a way of moving between floors.

What inspired the design of the kitchen and the living wall?

We are obsessive over natural light so we ensured the design would enable a generous amount of light to pour into the basement level kitchen. This is created by the use of a combination of walk-on glass above, high ceilings, a light colour palette, and a sunken courtyard access via oversized frameless glass doors. Kitchens are one of the most important rooms in a house, and the design is about more than just trophy appliances and shiny gadgets. The green living wall to the rear of the courtyard garden softens the look of this space and provides visual interest as well as a pleasant variation in materiality. The living wall benefits from being low maintenance and is automatically irrigated depending on the soil conditions. The irrigation water comes from two large rainwater harvesting tanks stored underneath the courtyard. This water is collected and recycled from the building’s rainwater drainage system.

How did you decide on the style of the interior?

Our design philosophy is to create understated luxury through warm contemporary interiors coherent within their architectural surroundings. In all our projects it is imperative that the interior design works coherently with the exterior architecture, be it period or contemporary. We consider the interiors right at the start as part of the full design package. It’s important that all furniture layouts and ground arrangements are complemented with the lighting and electrical layouts as well as the way natural light falls in each space. In all of our projects the majority of the furniture and fittings are designed bespoke to ensure a harmonious look throughout the development.

Have any features exceeded your vision for the house?

We always have an accurate vision for how all the different spaces, light and materials will work, but we were delighted with how much larger the house felt on completion when compared to its actual floor area. Most visitors have believed it to be 30-50% larger than it actually is, which is a great achievement in London were living space comes at such a high price. The amount of natural light flooding all spaces has also impressed us, even at basement level, making the house a delightful space to spend time in even on a dull day. It was a pleasure to be able to completely redesign and recreate a replacement London townhouse style to suit 21st century living.

All photography provided by Echlin

"We wanted to make a home we would be proud of" ~ Sam McNally

For more information on 47 Old Church Street, including floor plans, a detailed specification, image gallery and film, see Echlin’s website for this property: 47oldchurchstreet.com Echlin: echlinlondon.com Follow Echlin on Twitter: twitter.com/echlinproperty

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