Now, more than ever, there is a pressing need for innovative design that places sustainability at its core. In North London, a remarkable house renovation in Muswell Hill exemplifies this commitment. This property, which had languished in darkness and dampness for over four decades, has undergone a remarkable transformation into a low energy consuming, serene family house.
Ben Ridley, the homeowner and Director of Architecture for London, embarked on a challenging mission: to create a low energy home, both in terms of construction and day-to-day living, all while honouring the central character of the Edwardian terraced house and following to a tight budget.
The outcome, christened the “Low Energy House,” secured the coveted Environmental Leadership Prize in the 2023 Don’t Move, Improve! awards. This dwelling has been reborn as a tranquil sanctuary, characterized by soft hues, natural materials, and minimalist aesthetics. While paying homage to its Edwardian roots, it shows a contemporary ambiance, enjoying abundant natural light and a newfound sense of spaciousness.
The architect’s commitment to eco-consciousness was evident from the project’s start. Throughout the material sourcing and manufacturing phases, emphasis was placed on low-energy and low-impact methods. Additionally, the home was designed for maximum energy efficiency, by way of insulation and airtightness.
Triple-glazed windows were chosen to enhance insulation, and the original Edwardian bay design remains intact on both floors at the front of the house, along with a beautifully restored stained glass entrance door. Sustainable natural wood fibres were utilized for wall insulation, ensuring airtightness that significantly reduces the need for central heating and minimizes wasted energy was vital for the property’s eco-credentials.
Ben is passionate about encouraging small changes in everyday life, even for those who don’t have the funds to renovate. “We retained our original front door and made it more airtight with simple £10 DIY brush seals all around and a £30 magnetic letterbox seal. If everyone in London did these two things now, the energy saving would be significant.”
The contrast of original Edwardian features at the front of the house with a contemporary, timber-ribbed ceiling structure draws the eye into the expanded space, offering a seamless transition to the vibrant garden beyond. Wood also finds its place in the kitchen cabinetry, harmonizing with the light grey stone kitchen island, complete with an integrated sink area. This central kitchen space boasts clean lines and modern design elements influenced by Japanese and Scandinavian architecture. An exposed white-painted brick wall introduces texture and a hint of industrial chic.
A full-length glass window wall at the rear of the house blurs the boundary between indoors and outdoors, allowing the family to enjoy mealtimes while taking in the intentionally untamed garden to encourage biodiversity.
Upstairs, the main bedroom features the curve of the original bay window which is exaggerated by the full width curtain. It’s ensures privacy whilst cocooning the room in texture and dappling light throughout.
Like the rest of the house, the bathroom embodies a minimalist design, predominantly featuring smooth, light grey stone, accentuated by a smart ribbed wall that outlines the sink and mirror area. This uncluttered space encourages a tranquil, spa-like experience—a perfect retreat for unwinding.
Recognising the universal need for inspiring design and sustainable solutions, Ben conceived his home as a testament to what is achievable. If this represents the future of budget-conscious, sustainable design, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. Congratulations to this well-deserved win.
The “Low Energy House” serves as a compelling example of what can be accomplished with a budget-friendly retrofit of an ordinary terrace house. Such endeavours on modest budgets are instrumental in achieving widespread scalability.