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Elle Decor Italia

Victorian home gets revamped: goodbye old bulky staircase

An ambitious renovation by Tsuruta Architects radically refurbishes an old London house starting from its undisputed core: an imposing staircase

© Tim Crocker

The revamping of a North London Victorian home by Tsuruta Architects

Sometimes, in order to bring a project to completion, one has to be willing to make sacrifices, as, for instance, was the case with this Victorian home from the late 1800s, located in a Victorian street in North London. Its former showpiece was a grand, classic and imposing staircase that welcomed visitors at the house’s entrance. Something majestic yet rather… domineering. In fact, it tended to hog space to such an extent that it blocked the light, confining the rooms to a very small area, and preventing any further evolution in the home’s layout. Therefore, the owners, together with designers from Tsuruta Architects, decided to take a rather audacious step by removing said staircase. 

Photo credits © Tim Crocker

A heart-wrenching decision and an agonizing yet necessary surrender. Without that elegant encumbrance, space suddenly became a blank page to unleash creativity, giving a contemporary imprint to this Victorian historic building – something that could maintain its value by adding airiness and functionality to the rooms at the same time. All of this without losing sight of the budget, because ingenious solutions do not usually need staggering figures in order to achieve jaw-dropping results. Therefore, a new, stunning staircase finally replaced its noble ancestor. 

Photo credits © Tim Crocker

Made of nearly 2.000 pieces of plywood vertically slot together and designed by employing sophisticated digital techniques, the new lady of this Victorian house seems to be perfectly at its ease in the old mansion. Light floods easily in through slits between the pieces, while the staircase airily winds, light and agile, throughout the building’s three stories. The balustrades marking each level work as beams, but also as a reminder for the future: here, as well as on the banisters, are engraved texts from the emails the architects exchanged with the client.

Photo credits © Tim Crocker

Silent sentences whose echo seem to slither through the slits in the wood, almost as if laying a claim to a founding, self-defining role. The new staircase – unlike the old one - has no history, yet it aspires to get one. Those engraved words are the first notch on the line of time.  

The staircase defines and arranges the surrounding space, adjusting it to its thin, discreet shape. The ample, bright kitchen adjoining the living room, two bathrooms and five bedrooms – the last one tucked under the roof – have thus found their ideal positioning. 

Photo credits © Tim Crocker

That’s not all, though. Each corner and crawlspace becomes a precious hiding place where to store objects and memories. Just at the top of the staircase, under the eaves, there is Marie’s Wardrobe, a small, hidden temple of shoes from which the home gets its name.

Once the staircase issue had been solved, this stunning restyling by Tsuruta Architects has enabled the place to reclaim its spaces in free, resourceful ways. For instance, a wood-framed glass panel dematerializing internal partitions and multiplying light; and the addition of a black steel balcony at the rear of the house leading down to the courtyard and connecting the living area with the garden. 

Photo credits © Tim Crocker

Interiors feature a modern, minimalist look without losing their original Victorian ambience, with essential pieces of furniture arranged in such a way as to highlight the home’s original spirit, clearly traceable in the white stuccoes adorning doors and ceilings, as well as in the raw, exposed bricks. A multiplicity of textures and materials that positively sanctions and celebrates the happy coexistence of past and present styles. 


→ Come arredare la casa in stile vittoriano

by Elisa Zagaria / 5 September 2017


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