Basement conversion to large family home in SW18

OLBC undertook an end-to-end design and build package for this large basement conversion extending under the entire footprint of the existing house and part of the rear garden. We managed every step of the process from gaining planning consent through to full interior design. The substantial existing footprint of the house was excavated to a ceiling height of 2.7m to create a spectacular floor of living space including a family media room, glazed wine cellar, nanny bedroom suite, massive utility and a store under the garden large enough to convert into another bedroom suite if required in the future.

Our high-end residential design team  crafted a layout that would provide a dual-purpose media room with glass walled wine cellar and a family-friendly playroom with bespoke sofas and capacious storage for the kid’s toys. Colourful accents including the hand-picked cushion fabrics create a modern and fun family home.

Nicosia Road in on The Toast Rack a select enclave just off Wandsworth Common.

Rosie Caley – Design Director

In Conversation 2023

What was the brief for this project?

The owners were a large family with three young children and an au pair in Wandsworth with lots of storage needs, from multiple PE kits, cricket bats, badminton rackets, a growing bike collection and also an extensive wine collection. Additionally, they were looking to reclaim the open spaces of the existing house through these purpose-designed spaces for their belongings.

How did you tackle this challenge?

Well it was a larger than average footprint for the house, and the plan for the basement extended out to the garden for a light well and beyond under the garden to create additional storage space for the family. In fact, the storage space under the back garden was a later edition to the plans. What started off as a simple rear lightwell then became an under-garden storage room accessed through a separate door at the back of the lightwell.

I think what was interesting about the floor plan of this project is that all of the rooms are very spacious, from the utility room (which must be the biggest utility room we’ve ever created, with pull out bins for whites and colours and darks, and a very large space to air and iron in) to the shower room, which was enormous. Even the hallway was lovely and wide as well because the house itself was wide, so it allowed us to create space everywhere.

I think we also made good use of the width of the house in order to get an en-suite bedroom for the au pair at the front of the house with the bathroom on one side. Together with cooking appliances in the utility room, it’s a very self-contained little unit. I think the client was particularly keen to future-proof this design, o whilst they had an au-pair with three young children now it’s very likely that it will be re-purposed into accommodation for grandparents to visit and to stay.

What were the principle design themes?

It’s quite interesting to find a new architectural and interior design palette for a client who’s used to living in a period house. And then you are creating what’s almost a contemporary apartment underneath. I think it’s very important to emphasize that pastiche is a disaster if you try and recreate the period look and feel of upstairs. Downstairs in the basement its really got to have its own identity. So you are discovering a new aesthetic, but equally the basement has to have that flow and connection even though it doesn’t look like the rest of the house. One way we acheived this was to use a really lovely pale oak wide board floor throughout, which unites the spaces and really accentuates the size of the space.

The sitting room had a rear light well with the wine cellar entrance as an mirror opening next to it. The view of the wine through the doors was really eye-catching. The storage space in the wine cellar was a project in its own right! We needed to optimize the racks for the bottle sizes as the storage capacity in the wine store was crucial. And as a Burgundy and Bordeaux collector, we came up with a form of racking that would suit either bottle, which are very different in diameter, without compromising the storage space.

We even had various triangular rack samples made up to test the bottles. But I think that wine cellar came up really well at the end. I love the dark wood and the accent lighting because I think that sets off the bottles much more than a plain pale oak colour. And it also it allows the pine wine boxes to visually pop out much more. So it’s quite a suitably impressive and eye-catching feature to be off the living space.

It works really well with the joinery in the living room as well. The dark veneer is carried through to the units which wrap around tow walls, sub-divided by illuminated glass shelves.

I think what was really important, because this room was so large, even though the ceilings are quite high, they don’t look high because the floor plan is so large. By having the bespoke joinery and the wine cellar in the living room, it gives you strong focal points and it doesn’t just look like an enormous plastered box. And I think that’s something you’ve got to be very careful of with basement conversions that you can easily end up with something that just looks like an enormous featureless barn. It’s very much about playing with texture and light and colour to replace the detail you don’t have up from the period features upstairs. But also making the spaces interesting as well so that you’ve not just taking the big plastered box and planted some furniture in it – you need to consider how that space can integrate into the whole and draw you through the basement into the other spaces.