More often than not in life, what you expect you’re going to get when you look at the outside of something is very far indeed from what you find once you take a look inside. As more and more architect with a flair for the contemporary take on the interior renovation of period buildings, this is certainly becoming increasingly true of architecture. A Georgian façade does not guarantee original fireplaces, elaborate cornicing or even high ceilings on the inside.
In the case of Tolmers Park in Bedfordshire, England, there are definite hints even on the exterior that what lies within may have had a modern update. Nicolas Tye Architects, who renovated the interior, also built the extension that provides a startling contemporary contrast to the sedate façade of this building. But even the glass-fronted modernity of this structure probably wouldn’t serve to prepare you for the sharply modern turn things will take once you walk through the door of the house.
The owners of this property are lucky enough to have managed to retain the original windows, a feature that can make a huge amount of difference to any period building. In this case, they only serve to add to the incongruity of the neat wooden extension seen below. In some cases, highly noticeable architectural difference between different parts of a single building can be a jarring thing much more than a pleasing one, but here the two structures are such good example of their respective styles – as well as each being strangely neutral in its own way – that they work to accentuate one another’s merits rather than detracting from them.
Moving around to the front of the house and taking a closer look, we can really see how truly gorgeous those old-fashioned features are, especially that subtle outlining of the windows and doors.
Strolling back round the rear garden again now, we can see the extension in all its glory. The jutting angle of its roof is unmistakably of the moment, and the triangular overhang it creates is the perfect place to house subtle sunken lighting. The stark contrast in materials between this part of the house and the original part works brilliantly, making it clear that the extension is not trying to fit in with, or replicate, the style of the main house. When planning to extend a building, particularly a period building that is almost certain to be impossible to mimic with today’s materials and techniques, going down the brazenly dissimilar route is generally a winner. Design a piece of architecture that will revel in difference, rather than appearing to seek to become what it cannot possibly hope to become.
Low ceilings over the kitchen, combined with what seems like acres of whiteness and glass, usurp any expectations those who have only seen the house from the front might have had.
These are one of the most beautiful contemporary features of the whole building: incredible, dizzy-making stairs uniquely encased in glass.
In the bedroom, more of the pale wood we’ve seen elsewhere prevails, while even in this private area the colour palette remains perfectly consistent with the understated tones we’ve already seen downstairs.