Oliver Leech Architects: Vestry Road shows stylish compact design

Architecture / 20 Mar 2020

‘Vestry Road’ is a radical remodelling, including rear and side extension, to a Victorian terraced house in Camberwell. Exposed brickwork, white-oiled timber and concrete are combined in a celebration of raw, natural materials. This project by Oliver Leech Architects has won the Compact Design of the Year in NLA’s Don’t Move, Improve! 2020 awards.


The two-storey house was in poor condition, with little natural light and a cramped kitchen so the brief was formed from the client’s wish to provide new open-plan cooking and eating spaces that face out onto the garden, with a focus on natural light and materials to create more usable space and a calm atmosphere.

The house was stripped back to a shell, extended and internally rebuilt, including new services and better insulation to improve thermal performance. The design focused on the use and expression of natural materials that would complement and respect the original house and preserve its character. The use of a limited palette of natural materials provides a consistent language throughout the house, creating a coherent relationship between old and new. White oiled Douglas fir was paired with pale buff bricks which has been expressed both externally and internally, as a subtle contrast with the existing London bricks.

Volumetrically, the extensions are articulated into two distinct volumes. A side extension provides extra width to the previously narrow kitchen, with pitched skylights overhead to bring in plenty of north light into the dining space throughout the day. A rear extension projects slightly further into the garden, framing a set of bifolding doors across a low-height window bench. The bench provides flexible seating that developed from the client’s particular desire to be able to sit and read in the evening sun, whether with the doors open or closed.

The judges praised Vestry Road for its stylish and compact design. They commended the careful and imaginative use of space which sympathetically worked with the existing building fabric and made the home feel spacious despite its modest size. Superb detailing and beautiful materials gave it the calm and intimate atmosphere the owner was hoping for.

About DMI

Don’t Move, Improve! is a competition hosted by New London Architecture (NLA) – an independent forum for discussion, debate and information about architecture and construction in the capital – celebrating London’s best and most innovative home extensions and improvements.

Photography: Ståle Eriksen

Image courtesy of NLA

Oliver Leech Architects

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