Marion Venman bravely gave her architect the freedom – with no budget or space constraints – to come up with a design that would give her existing Glaswegian home the wow factor.
When homeowner Marion Venman decided to improve her architect-designed Sixties villa, the brief she presented to Cameron Webster Architects was simply to explore the art of the possible. She gave no spatial or style prescriptions or even budget parameters, offering a rare chance for creative freedom; an opportunity that the architect fully embraced.
Following an ambitious 18-month construction period, the outcome is a seamless and clever combination of the sharp white soaring geometry of the partially retained original house and a new bronze-clad extension that wraps around the building from the front door to the sloping garden at the back. Here, a south-facing, frameless glazed wall allows natural light to penetrate the house and provides garden views; in all, this bold addition has increased the size of the property by more than 100 square metres.
The radical reinvention had humble beginnings. ‘I wanted a nicer kitchen,’ explains Marion, a Glasgow-based lawyer. ‘When I bought the house in 2001, it wasn’t the kind of traditional property that I had in mind. But the site itself and the back garden were lovely. I knew there was always potential to make changes to the house, and in the summer of 2010 I decided to take the plunge and remodel it.’
Having spotted a project in a local newspaper by Glasgow-based Cameron Webster Architects, Marion organised a meeting at her house to have a chat about how the property could be improved. ‘I wanted a forever home; I didn’t want to have to move again,’ she says. However, rather than present the architect with a cast-iron budget, Marion instead chose to posit the art of the possible idea. ‘I didn’t want to give the architect a budget as I was keen to see what ideas they could come up with. I wanted to be wowed.’
‘The existing house was built at a time when space standards were rather mean, and none of the rooms were really large enough or ideally suited to Marion’s lifestyle,’ explains architect Louise McGinlay. ‘There was also a lack of relationship between the spaces.’ The solution was to create an extension across the entire width of the building, and replace the south-facing rear wall with frameless glazing to provide uninterrupted outdoor views. ‘To me, having spent a lot of time and effort on the garden, it was just as important as the house,’ says Marion. ‘I didn’t want any trees or shrubs destroyed during construction – thankfully only a bin storage and drying area was lost when the house was squared off.’
The open-plan arrangement of the extension flows from the living room through the dining area into a new kitchen, while the remaining spaces have been opened up to allow a better circulation around a central core featuring the main staircase and new cloakroom.
‘The new living spaces have really changed the way I live,’ says Marion. ‘I never really cooked before, but I’ve now started baking and I enjoy it. How could I not enjoy cooking in my new kitchen? And the living room is a great place to relax with friends and watch the foxes that come into the garden.’
A double-height glazed entrance hall allows light deep into the heart of the house and provides views to both the front and back gardens. On the first floor a connecting bridge – a continuation of the existing hallway – punctures the double-height entrance space and leads to the newly created master bedroom and en suite built over the original garage.
Inside, Marion has created a warm, neutral palette with white- and cream-painted walls and oak flooring, an oak staircase and walnut cabinetry in the kitchen and bathrooms. She’s added splashes of colour with her choice of furniture and feature walls – such as the purple paint in the master bedroom and the multicoloured shelving in the living room.
On the outside, bronze cladding with rich coppery tones beautifully roots the house to its mature garden setting. ‘I wanted something that reflected the colours in the garden, and I was also keen to have a cladding that I wouldn’t have to treat or maintain,’ explains Marion. ‘I had seen something similar during a business trip in La Rioja in Spain when I stayed at the Marquis de Riscal Hotel designed by Frank Gehry. I loved the titanium cladding and mentioned this to the architect; she did some research and found TECU copper-bronze cladding. My horse at the time was called Copper so I thought it was a nice coincidence.’
The build mainly ran to schedule, although there was one delay when the lorry carrying the glass panels hit a low bridge, shattering the consignment. ‘Delay was good in this case,’ Marion explains, ‘as it allowed me to change certain things. For example, I thought the master bedroom was too big and realised there was enough room to build a false wall behind the bed and create extra storage for my jewellery and shoes,’ says Marion. ‘If it hadn’t been for the delays I might still be walking around thinking about alterations I would have made. But now I can honestly say that there is not one thing I’d change about the house,’ says Marion.
‘Some people have said that it might have been cheaper if I had knocked the property down and started from scratch. But there isn’t another one of these anywhere else. One of the great things about it is that from the front of the house you can’t tell what’s going on at the back – it’s like my secret,’ says Marion. ‘This is not a design statement for me. It’s my home.’
Words: Caroline Ednie, Photography: Douglas Gibb