After years of working abroad Tsabikos decided to return home to Athens in 2019. Rather than rent in the congested city centre he realised he could refurbish a storage room in the undercroft of his parents' house provided he found a design that gave him independence and a sense of pride. Our task was to banish the idea of a basement as a boxy and cold space. Instead we imagined and then built a series of small comfortable rooms as an attractive subterranean sequence. We used a tiled mosaic ceiling to reflect precious light onto a polished cement floor; this extends through every room joining gentle level changes and continuing up to the mid height of the walls to highlight handmade curved skirting and architraves. The result is a subtly sophisticated Athenian flat quietly tucked into the humdrum of the suburbs.
Angmering Village CLT
In September 2016, Rabble were appointed to design 12 homes for Angmering Community Land Trust. The proposed development is arranged as 3 terraces of houses and flats built around a mews street and an orchard. The houses are to be built on land owned by the parish council and will be managed by a community housing trust. The layout emerged from the stories, observations and imagination of the community in Angmering and a thorough lifting of local architectural precedent. The final arrangement is familiar and serene, yet exciting - an essential combination in forming the bedrock of a new rural community.
Before Gus and Charlotte bought their house in Bow they had investigated every local extension in their notoriously strict conservation area. Since their first meeting in Damascus they had dreamed of a home with a riad plan and colours reminiscent of experiences more exotic than their normal routine. We gained planning consent to demolish a garage and worked with tireless builders to make a new kitchen, hall, and bedroom staggered round a blue tiled courtyard sunken in stages below the street. This court has become a miniature cloister that is overlooked by a bedroom balcony and framed through evocative arches.
A large door for a small flat. The extension is formed by a 3 metre high door within a door which is traditionally called a wicket gate. Our client Sophy grew up in Cambridge so we brought a miniature college gate to Tooting and painted it white to illuminate her back garden. When closed, a white washed panelled wall is formed through which the small door allows day to day access and a view east.
The CPRE are conventionally known as NIMBYS. Their founding role was to counter sprawl. In Sussex, a local branch wished to turn this reputation on its head by helping Parish Councils explain development they could tolerate, and even like. We wrote a guide to extrapolate and illustrate the character of places to be used for neighbourhood plans. Over two weekends we sat with local councillors and poured over table sized maps to find and then explain all that was good about where they live. Afterwards we wrote the guidebook Making Places and this won the 2017 Community Planning Award.
Simon and Jane’s Dorset home is an attractive farmhouse that is disappointingly detached from its big gardens. Jane’s plan was to renovate her twenty year old kitchen; our suggestion was to start with a new lawn where they used to park cars. The challenge was to do the least possible to turn a house surrounded by asphalt back to a farmhouse with doors, windows, and gardens that felt right, giving them a much better relationship with very familiar surroundings.
The village square in Alfriston was once the epicentre, a prosperous medieval market town sited between the Firle Downs and Cuckmere River. Today, the long-distance South Downs Way walk passes the ancient market cross and local houses are in great demand commanding high prices. There are very few low cost small family houses to rent. A community land trust had formed as a development group to try and build a small community of homes close to the school, shops and buses. We are working with them to find the right site and to imagine houses that they can afford to build, will be popular with the village and appropriate for the National Park.
Daubney Holt Farm
Will is a Lincolnshire farmer and metalworker who wants to grow his business and start a family at Daubney Holt Farm. This Grade II listed house was on the point of ruin when he bought it in 2015. Our extension is an arrangement of outbuildings which have the quality of being 'round the back of something’, recalling a certain English air of damp and moss, brick and leaves, rabbits, ditches and banks cut and aligned with sheds, walls and paths. The new kitchen and bedroom have been designed with hints of growth and decay, routine and splendid isolation.
A small flat in one of the densest neighbourhoods of Athens was dark and divided into small boxy rooms. Too many doors cluttered around a tiny hallway. Our task was to bring light, fun and more openings, re-polish a fascinating collage of existing materials and freshen up the place.
Now free of its clumsy 20th century additions we have restored Firle Cottage to an advent calendar of delights. With builder Simon Farey we constructed a huge cat slide roof of handmade peg tiles punctured by five perky dormer windows. Inside, lofty wallpapered and lime washed rooms present aspects of the Downs and circulation through all floors is by a vivid green panelled staircase. Walls are of hempcrete and lime and roofs are sheep wool and insulated wood fibre board covered with tiles made of clay dug up three miles south.
Firle Riding School
Generations of horses, carriages and cars have lived in Firle's Georgian Riding Stables. These stalls have now been swept out as the yard and the old Riding School hosts events including weddings and sometimes the Great British Bake Off. The Estate asked us to turn a boiler room into a new entrance to the old sand school, and the grooms' kitchen and television room into male and female loos. We designed the entrance to the sand school around theatre stage doors that lead from tense back of house wings straight onto set. For the loos we developed a finish to live up to the sturdy but elegant stables next door: a new colorful and theatrical piece of history that is able to cope with high footfall and only get better with wear and tear.
Firle Whole Estate Plan
The Gage family have owned 7,500 acres of Sussex Downland, five villages, 114 houses, seven farms, eighteen yards, two pubs, and many businesses for over 500 years. Since forming in 2011 the South Downs National Park have asked landowners to explain the value of their holdings. Lord Gage tasked us with bringing together his records and articulating Firle's relevance, vision, and commitments. Our response is an estate plan that explains local habitats, infrastructure, archaeology, farming, business, and villages using two years of our own research.
A greenhouse in the ICA for Peter Jensen's fashion show. The metal frame taken from it's suburban leafy context, was freed from its glass, painted bright white and raised on plinths to accommodate the colourfully dressed models inside one of the ICA's top floor grand rooms.
In a tired flat at the centre of Shoreditch, a series of excavations unearthed an Athenian courtyard from within a warren of magnolia box rooms. Our Greek clients had a tight budget so we made their apartment exciting by removing things rather than adding. We revealed lots of height and the beautiful old timber.
In 2016, Laura and John bought a farm cottage that the agent told us was impossible to extend. The cottage has a colourful past - once home to a one-legged poacher and then the young officer who led the D-Day attack on Pegasus Bridge. The house is perfect but the routes across the gardens were poor, we imagined a walled garden with lean-to outbuildings for a kitchen and bedroom. The site is an Archaeological Notification Area in a National Park, our neighbour is Listed, and the house looks at Firle Place across protected parkland. We worked hard with Lewes District Council and our contractors JHPaynes and finished in 2019.
Amy and Jonnie bought their first house in leafy Crouch End, a bicycle ride away from our old studio. Their brief was to turn a dark one bedroom flat into a light two bedroom home. Our solution was a huge view of their tiny garden. This oversized four pane window was the focus for a new panelled hall, bathroom, and second bedroom.
Below the escarpment of the Blackcap Downs near Lewes a chalk spring rises in the gardens at Kemps Cottage. Sam and Alice moved here in 2016 because of its views and because there was space for a cricket net. The cottage was extended a decade ago with a big kitchen that distorts the scale of the old one-bedroom house. Alice is a painter and writer and Sam often works from home on his laptop. Together we have thought about each corner of their home and have designed a granary outbuilding to sit in a new yard at the back of the house which will make a creative and private spot off which paths lead to the sitting room, the kitchen, the garden and the nets. A Pre-application was submitted in Autumn 2019.
In the middle of Athens Kolonaki is an affluent district where designer brands crowd the ground floor of polykatoikia blocks. Behind one such building a quiet alley leads to steps that descend down to an old storage basement. Beneath heavy concrete infrastructure this space has curiously good proportions and an unusual arrangement of two small chambers reminiscent of crypts or wine cellars. It was these qualities that attracted Yiorgos to consider building a beautiful flat in such an unlikely place. Our aim was to make very elegant rooms in a very restricted space. To do this we exaggerated colours, patterns and ornaments to form a vivid and formal apartment in miniature.
Lucy Hotel Spa
In the basement of Lucy Hotel everything is big and tangled. Huge columns, round and square solemnly support the storeys above. Spacious plant rooms supply the hotel with hot water, air and electricity. Giant freezers and walk-in fridges keep the supplies fresh. With every door you open, something fun hides behind it. In the midst of a forest of columns, in the largest of rooms that had remained empty and little used, we carefully placed a big rectangle to mark the spa territory. A series of simple arched doorways lead to ancillary rooms around it. A pool of water is the gem in the middle. To get there one has to follow a spiralling route, a maze-like path that leads deeper and deeper.
A little hut we built for a hotel on the island of Thasos. It stores suitcases for departing guests and shelters a drinking fountain out of the sun under a roof of local stone. Sea breeze blows under the open eaves which provide a refuge for the occasional lizard and snake. We hope that the business of waiting for a taxi and arranging to go home after a week on the beach is made better and jollier by this building.