Courtyard House

A series of courtyards provide the main source of daylight to this award-winning two-bedroom house built within the walls of an infill site in East London. Our challenge was to create a calm and tranquil home without a sense of being overlooked and that still protected the daylight enjoyed by neighbours.

Living space
Entrance off street
Garden approach
Kitchen threshold
Stairs to master bedroom
Rear courtyard

“Their much-lauded Courtyard House, a cleverly-conceived contemporary home on an east London infill site, is the calling card of this multidisciplinary studio’s residential offering.”

The Modern House

The 95sq.m timber-frame house is almost entirely open plan with delineation created by level changes and the varying height and geometry of the ceiling. Four distinct courtyards provide the main source of daylight, and open up sightlines through the property creating functional outdoor spaces for walking through, dwelling in and looking into.

The main entrance of the house is sunken so that the roof of the building can be at its lowest point closest to the rear of the neighbouring property, minimising any impact to their outlook.

“In this glorious little building there is a seamless integration between the incidental spaces, the interiors and exteriors. With limited cash and a tiny site the designers needed wit and imagination, together with a magic wand, for how else do you make small as beautiful as this?”

Kevin McCloud
Grand Designs House of the Year
All rights to video: Boundless Productions & Channel 4

“My intent for the house was to create a modest, light and sustainable home. The resulting space is calm and adaptable with wonderful sightlines, changing light and multiple places to sit and enjoy the building”

Rear courtyard
Naturally lit spaces
Dining area
View from bedroom

The client’s brief called for a home that made best use of the site while allowing flexibility in the way that the spaces are used. Early discussions with Newham Planning Department agreed a massing for the building that respected the neighbours while allowing the master bedroom to rise above the existing brick walls.

The awkward 165sq.m L-shaped plot was previously a builder’s yard and store, similar to many semi-industrial slithers of land in the city. Our interest lies in realizing the potential of these left-over spaces, and how they can be developed while remaining sensitive to their context and history.

“The design is an exemplary case of exploiting a small and constrained infill site, to deliver a delightful and playful new living space. The skills demonstrated in this design can be drawn on to exploit so many under-utilised residual pieces of land across the city.”

Michael Squire
Massing models
Site model - existing
Site model - maximum volume
Site model - cutting away

A standalone study sits opposite the house, between which a walled kitchen garden provides green space, biodiversity, fruit, herbs and flowers. The second bedroom, subdivided with a curtain wall, is located on the ground floor as an extension of the living space. A rear patio provides a quiet space for entertaining and contemplation.

Site and massing studies
Ground floor plan

“…well organised, beautifully detailed and an exemplary use of brownfield land to make a new home… the client should be ‘proud’.”

Judging panel
Brick Awards 2016
Material palette
House model
Brick detail
Exposed joists

We were keen to select building materials which were both affordable and resonated with the historic use of the site. Black profiled cement sheets are used to clad the first floor bedroom and roofs, echoing the corrugated steel on nearby outbuildings. On the ground floor, the majority of the timber walls are protected by the existing brick boundary walls with the exposed walls faced in blue brick or white render.

Internally, the ceiling joists are exposed in the living areas to maximise height and add richness while, below waist height, sawtooth bricks are used which soften the appearance of the brickwork. Remnants of these materials were discovered on our first visit to the original builder’s yard. The resulting building is a calm, green space which allows the client to escape from the noise of the city.


Brick Awards Individual Housing Development Award 2016
RIBA London Regional Award Winner 2015
RIBA London Best Small Project 2015
New London Architecture Best Home 2015
Featured on Grand Designs: House of the Year 2015

London 2015
Private client
Collaborators: Brooks contracting
Photography: Rachael Smith, Tom Gildon & David Butler


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