After a decade of wrangling with council planners, an imaginative live–work building by Studio E Architects occupies a derelict site in London's Barnes conservation area.
How did this strikingly modern, live–work unit end up shoehorned onto a derelict site in a London conservation area? In fact, it took 10 years of wrangling with Richmond council to get the £300,000 home, which stands at the rear of Castelnau Mews in Barnes, approved.

Initially, a planning application to construct a house was rejected because the site, then occupied by a former coach house that was being used as a junk store, was designated for employment use.

Studio E founder Cezary Bednarski negotiated the live–work solution as the only practical means of developing the neglected location, and the home was completed in January.

The 252 m2 house includes four to five bedrooms (some of which can be used as versatile work spaces), two bathrooms, a kitchen and a double garage.

The crisp white render of the elevations is tempered with the natural warmth of Douglas fir on the windows and terrace doors.

This warm effect is enhanced by Aspen panelling that covers the large, custom-made garage door and carries through a side wall of the entrance lobby to the stair central spine wall, which then extends right to the roof terrace.

At first-floor level, a double-height studio features a high longitudinally vaulted roof and clerestory windows, creating a cathedral-like, light drenched space under a ceiling of curved Aspen panelling.

The footprint of the house almost filled the site and it is flanked on both sides by party walls and putting fenestration on its front elevation would have meant getting permission from the adjacent owner. Bednarski solved the problem by negotiating the purchase of the neighbour's triangular site. This allowed him to create a front elevation window to the third bedroom/study and a vertical window to the studio room.

"This window is aimed at a beautiful conifer to the west of the house and proportioned to frame the tree when one enters the studio room," says Bednarski.

The curved roof over the studio room is supported at only four points and appears to be sailing in the air. The roof covering is durable aluminium with an applied pattern that mimics the colour of patinated copper.

The house also features three terraces, one at first-floor level and two at roof level, with glass balustrades to create privacy. Its steel frame construction means that the room layout is easily altered.

All windows are double glazed for energy efficiency, and laminated glass on the ground floor provides added safety and security.

The house was built in eight months. Contractor was Berkeley Homes; structural engineer was McCartney Rose; and M&E engineer was Studio E Architects with Berkeley Homes.

The sale value of the house, valued from the drawings in 1999 at £500,000, has doubled since construction was finished.