Magpie House by DGN Studio
DGN Studio, a London-based architectural firm, has recently completed a stunning refurbishment and extension of Magpie House, a terraced home in East London. The project was commissioned by a textile designer and a digital designer who are keen collectors of mid-century furniture and experienced in self-build projects. The brief initially involved opening and extending the ground floor, but it soon expanded to include refurbishing the upper floor, incorporating many repurposed fittings and furniture from the clients’ vintage collection.
DGN Studio’s approach to the project was adaptive, seeking to respond to an ever-evolving brief and the unique needs of the clients. As Daniel Goodacre, Director of DGN Studio, explains, “We focused on creating spaces of architectural integrity, allowing our work to become a backdrop for the many materials, fittings, and fixtures John and Alice brought to the home.”
The redesign of the ground floor began with the principles of spatial planning and natural light. DGN Studio reworked the traditional configuration of smaller rooms, opening up the center of the plan to create a welcoming living space on entrance that leads down into the new kitchen and dining space, which extends three meters into the rear garden. The connection to the garden was central to the brief and met with the addition of a cast concrete and dark-stained oak window seat at the rear elevation, the glazed panels of which can be entirely opened to offer a seamless flow from the dining area to the garden.
Outside, the rear facade is designed to offer depth and a degree of privacy. It has an expressive, galvanized steel structure with dark-stained timber window trims, chosen to tie neatly in with the existing black-stained garden room. Slim steel posts break up the dark elevation, which is topped by a thick lead parapet that projects to create a small overhang, sheltering the bench below from rain. The courtyard is a low-maintenance space featuring gravel overlaid with reclaimed steel mesh panels, and brewer’s malting kiln tiles salvaged and repurposed by the client as part of a careful narrative of old and new.
This stitching and weaving of different material components and objects inherited from the client continues throughout the home. In the new extension, DGN Studio treated reclaimed London stock bricks with a mineral paint for a softer interior. Set three steps down from the entrance level, the new extension takes advantage of increased ceiling heights and overhead glazing. The requirement for an economic and functional kitchen is accommodated by large joinery pieces for plentiful storage, all designed to work around items that were already in the client’s possession such as the oven and hob. Stainless steel counters and splashback act as the main material of contrast against ash cupboards and open shelving. These extend to a larger, stainless-steel unit that conceals the extract at high level, as well as providing ample space for preparation to service large gatherings. An ash wood cut out in the wall connects the kitchen to the sitting room at the front of the home, elongating site lines throughout the ground floor.
Upstairs, the floor plan is rearranged to accommodate two bedrooms and a family bathroom in lieu of the previous three bedroom arrangement, which can still accommodate a third small bedroom in future if required. The new bathroom is enclosed in an oak-framed reeded glass screen with slatted timbers above the door to allow light to permeate into the top floor. Microcement floors are taken up to the walls, with the interior designed around the clients’ collected items including the loo, large sink, and bath.
In lieu of the former, narrow corridor outside the bathroom, a bright, open landing can now accommodate a sofa or study, going beyond mere circulation space. A wood floor reclaimed from the structural and supporting timbers of historic barns throughout the North-East and Mid-Atlantic regions elevates the feel of it as a transitory space to the bedrooms where minimal alterations were made.
The project was facilitated by a long-term relationship between the client and contractor, as well as a sensitive attitude to reusing found objects. DGN Studio rethought the traditional design process in favour of a more intuitive, flexible approach, testing new ways of working in a more agile and responsive manner to site processes, making Magpie house a successful collage of many hands.
John McDavid, owner of Aucoot, praises DGN Studio’s Magpie House project, saying:
“DGN Studio’s work at Magpie House is a brilliant example of how a careful and sensitive approach to design, in collaboration with the clients, can result in a unique and personalised space. The studio’s ability to adapt and evolve the brief to encompass refurbishing the upper floor, while maintaining the clients’ mid-century furniture collection and incorporating repurposed fittings and furniture, is truly impressive. The attention to detail, the use of different materials, and the thoughtful consideration of natural light and spatial planning are what make this home a success.”