Architecture Group Names the Best Home Renovations of the Year

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If you’ve been thinking about moving, London’s built-environment community wants you to consider staying put.

On Tuesday night, the New London Architecture group (NLA) held its 15th annual Don’t Move, Improve! awards, showcasing the most innovative and sustainable home renovations around the city.

This year’s Home of the Year prize, selected from more than 150 entries, was awarded to Aden Grove, a house in the borough of Hackney. The project, by Emil Eve Architects, added 765 square feet to what had been a 1,065-square-foot mid-terrace home using two colorful terra-cotta tiled additions — one at the rear, one on the roof — and maximized space by using the full width of the narrow lot where possible, including in the new kitchen and dining area.

“Growing up, I always lived in a house and had a nice big garden, so I spent a lot of time outside,” said Matjaz Cuk, who lives in the house with his partner Tess Bridgman and their 5-month-old daughter. “Since then, it was always a struggle. You were in small flats and you never had space. And then being able to finally have a nice space where you can access the garden, and you can be in the house and enjoy the garden as well, so kind of bringing everything together, that was such a big change.”

Aden Grove also won the prize for Materiality and Craftsmanship, “for its exquisite use of materials and commitment to quality construction, utilizing tiles in a way that we don’t see often in an exterior environment,” according to the judges’ comments.

The use of natural materials contributed to the home’s sustainability upgrades, such as the addition of an air-source heat pump, improved insulation including new windows, and a smart heating system.

“It was definitely right up there in our original project brief that we wanted to improve the sort of sustainability credentials,” Ms. Bridgman said. “It’s obviously difficult being, you know, a 19th-century, mid-terrace London property. But we’re in the 21st century, and it’s a real missed opportunity to not do that.”

Other winners among this year’s nine categories included Hillside House, in Waltham Forest, which took the Unique Character prize for its design by Mike Tuck Studio. The project, a reimagining of a postwar family home that the owners had initially wanted to sell but reconsidered, was recognized for its “distinctive design and dedication to delightful detailing.”

“We wanted a single living space where we could cook, eat, relax, play and create as a family,” said the homeowners, Nina and Benji Davies. “Our home is now bold and playful, yet practical and comforting.”

A compact triangular house in West Hampstead, Camden, won the prize for Best Project Under £100K. Architect Richard Brown of Brown Urbanism and homeowner Katrina Damigos collaborated to transform a triangular former mechanic’s garage into a surprisingly spacious live-work home. The house is a “small but remarkable example of efficient design and thoughtful use of space, without comprising quality and character,” noted the judges.

Other winners included the “Green Machine” house, designed by SUPRBLK Studio and recognized for its “innovative approach to compact living, with perfect detailing and a little touch of color,” in the Compact Design category; “House Made by Many Hands,” designed by Cairn Architecture, which won the Environmental Leadership prize for its pioneering use of low-carbon LC3 concrete (“It uses 40 percent less emissions,” said Federico Ortiz, who heads NLA’s programs.); and the “Chelsea Brut” house, by Pricegore, which won the Urban Oasis prize for its “refurbishment and extension of a 1960s townhouse, including the total renewal of the building’s services and thermal fabric.”

The member-supported New London Architecture group, which will mark its 20th anniversary next year, began the Don’t Move, Improve! awards to celebrate home-improvement projects that, like the architects who design them, often go unnoticed but have big value.

This year’s theme was “Reimagine the Home,” which ties into the 2024 “Reimagine” theme for NLA’s London Festival of Architecture, held every June. The awards also reflect NLA’s New London Agenda, a framework for the city’s future development. (Find the full list of winners here.)

Retrofitting existing housing stock is a critical step for cities around the world, Mr. Ortiz said, especially with the growing threat of climate change to homes and communities. “But for London in particular,” he said, “because of the type of housing that we have, which is usually Victorian, smaller housing, lower density. We think that by celebrating this kind of best practice, we can all learn different ways of retrofitting homes, thinking of ways of improving.”

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