Coborn House


A Victorian factory turned office block that we converted into two high-end ‘upside-down’ houses to maximise use of the beautiful original windows and expose the original structure.

This unique project was commended in The Sunday Times’ British Homes Awards 2013, and a case study published in architecture book: Design. The key to a Better Place.

Coborn House

What We Did

Two stunning ‘upside-down’ houses emerged from what had become a dreary, serviced office building in Bow, its Victorian splendour swaddled in over-grown ivy.

Originally a Victorian factory, we wanted to restore the building to its former glory – retaining key features such as the exposed King Truss wooden beams and bull-nosed window sills – then make sympathetic enhancements.

Such modern enhancements included the insertion of a roof terrace, creating a smart use of previously inaccessible space and providing a private, outside area accessed via an ‘opening’ glass box!

  • Location
    Bow, East London
  • Size
    500 square meters
  • Status
    Completed March 2013
  • Cost
    £1.5 Million

Although the final design bears no resemblance to the building’s previous use, the design intent was to be respectful of its robust warehouse aesthetic.

Inside, clean lines in the staircase echo the lines of the new Crittall styled windows, for example.

Exposed brick combined with Tadelakt wall finish (a polished concrete effect) and light-refracting white surfaces add to this modern but respectful aesthetic. The new entrance features a timber sleeper boundary wall and integrated external lighting.

Through careful reinstatement of key details – not least the restoration of the ‘bull nose’ brick window sills and every one of its many windows – the finished design retains the building’s original essence while now serving as twin luxury homes, sympathetic to its urban surroundings.

Featuring light as space

Featuring light as space

"The building was originally a Victorian warehouse with large windows along the upper floor; but the ground floor had limited natural light due to the boundary fences and brick walls being just one metre away.

Therefore, the exposed rafters were a pleasure to reveal, so we wanted a very light colour scheme for the walls and flooring to allow them to be a feature of the space."

Melanie Clear, Founder

Design Features

  • Created two ‘upside-down’ homes with the bedrooms on the ground floor and open-plan living space on the upper floor to take full advantage of the exposed King Truss rafters and multiple Victorian factory windows
  • Used contemporary detailing such as shadow gaps throughout the design
  • Bespoke feature staircase- very simple design achieved through specific detailing
  • Appointed on interiors/lighting design
  • Tadelakt wall finish- polished concrete effect- purposeful lighting accentuated the unique wall finish
  • Exposed roof trusses highlighted through the use of purposeful accent lighting
  • Unique ground floor corridor- use of lighting to create drama
  • Industrial style windows and doors to ensure the history of the building is remembered

Featured in a RIBA book on outstanding architectural design – ‘Design. The Key To A Better Place’.

We stripped back the building to its bare structure, added insulation, introduced new services such as underfloor heating, cleaned and re-pointed the brickwork, installed new windows (including the insertion of the glass box drawing light from the ‘hidden’ roof terrace above) and finally, added all the interior specification finishes to the floors and walls, including the feature staircase leading to the new roof terrace and the polished plaster to the bedroom enlightening the bedroom access pathway.

Ranked in Homify’s Top Ten of Britain’s most beautiful homes.

The selection of interior finishes ensured that this once unloved building became a truly unique, modern and sought-after pair of dwellings.

Sparse use of colour – the red kitchen units with light counter-top – inject warmth into an otherwise large open-plan ‘heart of the home’. Unfussy kitchen units with handles hidden in horizontal lines compliment the clean lines of the architectural design.

This project conveys the importance of architectural vision in transforming historic buildings into bespoke modern gems. It is also a significant part of the practice’s journey, giving us our first industry-recognised accolade in 2011.

The building’s piece de resistance is a “hidden” roof terrace, which forms a private outdoor space without contravening conservation demands to maintain the external appearance of the building, and is accessed via a sliding glass box”

The ‘upside down’ layout facilitated easier access to the newly inserted roof terrace from the kitchen/living space.


Featured In


The Sunday Times British Home Awards

554Highly Commended for its renovation of Coborn House, Bow, London at The Sunday Times British Home Awards 2013.