The warmth of the sun

Space, sunshine and garden connection were the winners when the rear of this home was reshaped and opened up in keeping with its setting

Designed by Cox Architects

From the renovating architects:

The homeowners and their back story

Katherine and James and their two children are originally from New Zealand but have lived in London, UK for many years.

Like many New Zealanders abroad, to feel good where they live, they want space, light and a strong connection with nature.

During the pandemic, they seized an opportunity to buy a larger house which ticked all of these boxes, but there was one problem – the garden faced North.

In conversation with the architects (who had re-modelled their previous property) they decided that the right design could help maximise sunlight, daylight and views out to the garden.

Despite the purchase and early design stages taking place at the height of the Covid pandemic, the couple were able to buy the house and commission the architects.

An individualistic project

Budget dictated a facelift of the existing structure rather than a rebuild so the design is a sort of stage-set, behind which a lot of the original building still sits.

A key factor was the trust and understanding between owners, architect and builder – all three having worked successfully together on a previous home remodel.

Technical challenge one – over the top

The owners needed natural light – a lot of natural light. 

The best way to achieve this was with large skylights and these were heavy. 

Specialist lifting equipment was required to haul each one over the top of the house before being carefully lowered into position.

Technical challenge two – retention of key existing elements

The house had previously been refurbished to a high specification and some key elements needed to be retained. 

These included underfloor heating, air conditioning and digital lighting systems.

The builders had to carefully work around these elements and integrate them with the new spaces.

Architectural detail

Recessed pointing (visible on the external brickwork) was a popular choice for UK architects of the 60s and 70s. 

It’s easy to do and can look more contemporary than other techniques. See it in the images of the project from the back garden!

The brick type was chosen to complement the original red brick details of the existing building.

The brick columns are not structural but give the impression of a solid support for the long beam above the sliding doors.

The multiple divisions of the sliding glass doors make them easier to operate and create a rhythm across the opening.


Keeping a lot of the original structure and upgrading the roof insulation helped to reduce the carbon footprint of this project.

Credit list

Renovating architect/project manager
Structural engineer 
Jonathan Darnell
Tom Massey
Elson Properties London
Kitchen design and build
Benjamin Alexander Kitchens
Glazing specialist subcontractors
Maxlight; Stella Rooflights

Designed by: Cox Architects

Story by: Trendsideas

Photography by: Matt Clayton Photography

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