A love of Far Eastern architecture and contemporary design is at the heart of this spectacular home, constructed by eco-build specialists Baufritz.
Many of us bring home mementoes of holidays spent in far-flung places. Some of us might even use them as inspiration for an interior design scheme. But very few of us would be as bold as this family, whose stunning home takes its cues from the ‘tropical modern’ architecture of their favourite resorts in Bali and Thailand.
From the front, the house is elegant and understated with ivory render and tall, narrow windows that allow light to flood in, but still protect the owners’ privacy. It blends in perfectly with the rest of the street – only the enigmatic glass cube over the front door hints at the dramatic interior. But from the back, this home is truly spectacular: cliffs of floor-to-ceiling glass, steeply pitched roofs, stepped balconies that shelter the terraces below. This is a house that is seamlessly connected to nature – it sits within a beautiful park-like garden with mature trees that provide shade and screen this cathedral of glass from the neighbours.
Located in a leafy north London suburb, the house is a remarkable collaboration between the owners and Baufritz, a German company specialising in luxury, eco-friendly pre-fabricated constructions. The couple had first encountered the company at Grand Designs Live, where they were impressed by the fact that the company not only offered a bespoke design service, but also used sustainable and environmentally friendly materials. A fixed-price and fixed-timescale construction added to its appeal. Intrigued, they visited the Baufritz factory in southern Germany and came away persuaded that this was the route they should pursue.
Breathe Architecture in Cambridge was commissioned to design the house and director Peter Cox worked with the couple on the design from the start. Many of the design accents, such as the natural stone walls, infinity water features, internal courtyards and a bridge leading to the prayer room, were dictated by the owners. The couple also prompted some of the external design elements, such as slit windows and pillars at the entrance.
All in the Planning
Getting planning approval for the 5,640 sq ft two-storey house was a challenge, as the plot was in an area of ‘special located character’, but the fact that it was an eco-house proved very helpful. By contrast, the construction of the house was very straightforward. Once the plans were approved, the couple went to the Baufritz factory and showroom in Germany and selected all the internal finishes, from floor tiles and bathroom suites, right down to the door handles. Then the walls were manufactured in Germany, transported to London on large trucks, and a team of German craftsmen put the house up and completed all of the interiors in about six months.
And what fabulous interiors… The Balinese influence is evident from the moment you step into the hallway, where you are greeted by an infinity water feature, complete with floating flowers and Buddhist sculptures. It is a calm, meditative space that sets the mood for the rest of the house. Light floods through the ground floor, which is open plan so that the soothing greenery of the garden can be enjoyed from every room. Glass walls, etched with traditional Indonesian designs, divide the kitchen from the living areas without compromising light levels. There are playful touches, too – an aquarium in a recessed wall connects the kitchen to the living and dining areas.
A dramatic half-turn staircase leads to the upper floor and to one of the property’s most intriguing features: a prayer room. It sits in the cube that protrudes over the front door and is connected to the rest of the house by a glass bridge. Skylights in the ceiling create a mystical play of light in this serene space.
There are five bedrooms, each with its own ‘bathing oasis’. The master bedroom has its own dressing room and gallery, accessed via a staircase. And whilst everything about this serene house is conducive to relaxation and contemplation, there’s space to get physical, too. Right up under the roof, there is a gym with an adjacent studio that’s the perfect warm down or chill out space.
The décor throughout is elegantly minimalist, employing neutral tones with judicious use of accent colour. Furniture is eclectic and contemporary, but Far Eastern elements – images of wall carvings, ethnic patterned fabrics (all sourced by the couple themselves) unify the scheme. Above all, the views of lush foliage and verdant lawns from the floor-to-ceiling windows intensify the feeling that the house is sitting pretty in the Balinese jungle, rather than a north London suburb.
This house is as practical as it is beautiful. It’s a masterpiece of intelligent design, with very high levels of insulation, triple-glazed windows, rainwater harvesting and solar water heating. Being air tight, it has a fresh air replenishment system, and all materials used are entirely natural and completely free of toxic compounds.
Baufritz define their unique approach to construction as the coming together of “aesthetics, design and ecology”. It’s a powerful concept, and one that is beautifully brought to life in this harmonious family space.