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Viktorianskt i Dalston

in 'hemma' Magazine
Nr. 8, 2014

Text: Amina Djemili
Pictures: Charles Hosea

Far left: One side of the wall is covered by glass doors opening out onto the rear.'

Far right: Open floor plan with generous dining area. Above: Bespoke built-in kitchen bench. Chairs by the Eames.

Above: Large glass walls gives light to the whole building. Above right: The house's staircase is from the old days, narrow and winding between floors. Right: A more formal living room with fireplace on the building's first floor.

Far right: Bespoke built-in bookcase that spans two floors accommodates a lot of books.

Above: One of the bedrooms on the third floor is painted in light gray. Wardrobe from Kartell. Right: The stairs to the roof terrace are reminiscent of an escalator on a fairground ride. Far right: The house seen from the back.

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'In a brick Victorian house in London's Dalston, the architect Ben Kilburn reintergrated three flats into one and at the same time proved that it is possible to transform a 150 year old house into a sustainable and modern home equipped with both solar panels and roof terrace,' says Amina Djemili


[Translated from the original Swedish.]

'From slummy and nasty to trendy and attractive. It was not many years ago that even Londoners avoided the city's eastern part. Dalston, Clapton, Hackney Wick and London Fields were considered shady and not really selling the image of London. It has neither whitewashed houses, major museums, or historic government buildings. Just 10 years ago, you were more likely to be robbed than to be mesmerised while visiting East London. But, as in any big city worthy of the name, the cityscape changes constantly. So especially with London. Slowly but surely, the area came to be accepted. Today Dalston is one of the hottest areas and a symbol of the young, creative London. And that was precisely why the architect Ben Kilburn and his wife Jane did not delay in bidding on the Victorian house on Greenwood Road in Dalston, when it was auctioned by the city. The previous owners had lived in the building since the 1970s, and the house was almost ready to collapse. Ben, one of two partners in the architectural firm Kilburn Nightingale saw the house not just as a potential accommodation for his own family, but also as an opportunity for the firm to take on a mission in which the challenge was both to combine three apartments into a large house and to transform a building from the 1800s to modern accommodation suited to today's sustainability standards.

'For the family Kilburn, it was having a flexible floor plan that was most important. This is because Ben and Jane, and their three daughters, love to hang out together and often have family and friends over. With that in mind, however, they also needed space to themselves on occasion. Therefore, there are lounges on two levels. On the ground floor there is an open kitchen with combined dining and living room, while a more secluded living area, primarily used as TV room perched in the house. The house's second and third floors house the bath and bedrooms. For the attic, access is by a discreet staircase, which in turn, via a wooden staircase reminiscent of an amusement park, leads on to the roof terrace - a favourite especially with Ben.

' — I pad up there every evening, when the sun comes out — and look at how it slowly goes down over west London. It is fantastic.

'Although the house is relatively narrow and additionally lies sandwiched between other houses and in a narrow street, is the amount of light generously on all floors. This is because a large window facing the garden, extending over the bottom two floors, floor to ceiling and was made possible by a one side of the wall simply been replaced with windows. Just that procedure was only one of many challenges in pursuit of the dream house, says Ben.

"Two floors dedicated to socialising is perfect, almost necessary."

' — The house was, of course, practically falling down, so all structural changes were necessary. There was a lot of work, but now we finally have settled in and is very happy.

'As an architect, Ben most pleased with the fact that they managed to convert a Victorian house into a modern family home and at the same time demonstrated that it is possible to adapt a 150 year old house by today's environmental standards.

'As residents of the house then, what are you as a family most pleased with?

' — That we really got the open and social layout we wanted. Two floors dedicated to socialising is perfect, almost necessary for a large family like ours. There is always so much happening around us and we often have people over. We can spread out as well, while there's plenty of room to be on one's own. If this is not enough, again, we have a lovely garden and roof terrace to escape to.

' — Also, we love both our street and Dalston as such. Although it is super quiet and child-friendly, there is a lot of nice restaurants and cafés — the perfect combination.'