Studiotwentysix adds plywood-lined loft extension to Edwardian family home

Image of the snug and sleeping area at Loft 62

Architect Dan Gray has upgraded his own 19th-century house in Brighton, England, adding a loft extension lined with birch plywood that makes the most of the angular roof space.

Gray and his wife Isabella, who are co-owners of architecture and design office Studiotwentysix, decided to extend their three-bedroom Edwardian property when the Covid-19 pandemic prompted a reevaluation of the family’s spatial requirements.

Image of the exterior of the Edwardian townhouse in Brighton
Studiotwentysix’s co-founder added a plywood-lined extension to his Brighton home

“When we headed into lockdown we really needed to redefine how the house was being used by two parents working full time, with two kids who were only going to nursery part time,” Gray told Dezeen.

“We needed spaces that could provide privacy for video conferencing, for concentration, and to rest,” he added, “but also it was important to create warmth through the use of materials to ensure these spaces were beneficial from a mental health perspective.”

The staircase of Loft 62 is lined in plywood
Plywood lines the floor, walls and ceiling of the loft extension

Dan and Isabella recognised that the empty loft space offered an opportunity to extend upwards and create an additional 55 square metres of living spaces.

The uninsulated loft was previously only accessible using a hatch in the ceiling, so a new stair was added from the first-floor landing.

Interior image of an office space at Loft 69
The extension comprises a study, bedroom and bathroom

Existing timber trusses were removed and replaced with a steel framework that rests on the outside walls. An additional beam supports the mid-span of the roof on the front elevation.

The exposed red-oxide steel structure allows the internal space to follow the roof’s pitch, creating a generous ceiling height that enhances the bright and airy feel of the room.

“The existing house is relatively dark and enclosed because of the way buildings were planned back then,” said Gray, “but as you emerge into the loft it has that treehouse effect of becoming very bright and open.”

Image of the tree line from the study at Loft 62
Angular windows punctuate the wood-lined walls

New Velux windows punched into the sloping roof provide views of the treetops on one side and towards the sea on the other. One of the windows extends almost to floor level so the couple’s young daughters feel connected to the surrounding nature.

“We were absolutely determined that our two girls, who are both less than a metre tall, would be able to address the outside by being able to go right up to the window,” Gray explained.

“Bringing the window almost to meet the floor means you also get that connection to the long views when you’re sitting down.”

A triangular snug built into the eaves of the gable end adds a playful and cosy space for relaxing.

At the rear of the property, a new timber-framed dormer extension contains a second bathroom and a small study lined with windows that look south across the rooftops towards the sea.

Living area at Loft 62
The studio incorporated an exposed red-oxide steel structure

Skylights inserted into the highly insulated roof also allow daylight to illuminate this private work area. The dormer slots in below the main ridge height and is therefore entirely hidden from the front elevation.

All of the new spaces are lined with birch plywood to make them feel warm and inviting. The choice of material also references the challenges posed by climate change and serves as a reminder during conference calls that sustainable materials can be used in fun and creative ways.

Openings in the sloped roof become snug areas at Loft 62
Angular cutouts provide snug areas for the architect’s children

“We wanted to deliver an architectural response that celebrated the warmth and sustainability benefits that birch ply as a material offers,” Gray pointed out.

“The architecture creates a lens through which the clients’ video engagements provide visual reminders of the need to create sustainable, adaptable spaces which minimise material use, promote health, wellbeing and connect us with our environment.”

Velux windows line the sloping roof
The dormer extension looks across Brighton and to the sea

Existing spaces within the house were also updated as part of the project. The family bathroom was reconfigured to incorporate a walk-in shower, and a new utility area was added below the loft which is more accessible from the bedrooms on the first floor.

A second phase of works will see a side extension added to the ground floor kitchen, and improvements made to an existing first-floor conservatory at the rear.

Detail image of the red oxidised steel structure
The studio also renovated the lower levels of the home

Elsewhere in the UK, RX Architects clad a house on the coast in pink concrete in reference to Mediterranean beach houses and Fletcher Crane Architects built a compact brick home in west London on the site of a former garage.

The photography is by Jim Stephenson.

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