10 impressive townhouse renovations
Inspirational urban homes spread across multiple levels
Organised over at least three storeys, townhouses are space-efficient by nature, making it possible to live comfortably in the heart of a crowded town or city. Traditional layouts are quite formal, but townhouse renovations can result in the tall, narrow buildings feeling more dynamic and contemporary, using techniques such as cutaway floors, sunken terraces and rooftop pavilions.
1. Rebuild in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv-based architect Meirav Galan remodelled this late 19th-century townhouse in one of the Israeli city’s oldest neighbourhoods, Neve Tzedek, for a couple with four children.
Her scheme involved reorganising their home around a new plant-filled courtyard that brings in light and gives the family a private green oasis. The house was originally single-storey, but had been extended in the 1930s, creating a first floor that could only be reached by a staircase in a separate tower.
Despite the building’s conservation area location, Meirav was able to convince the planning authorities to let her demolish the tower and replace it with a new extension that is less disruptive to the house’s elegant original façade. The 580sqm, five-bedroom home is organised over four floors, including a new basement and a second storey slotted beneath the sloping roof.
The courtyard is the focal point, and can be seen from several rooms through industrial-style glazed walls. There’s a second courtyard at the back of the house and a roof terrace with a barbecue area and plunge pool.
2. Conversion in Utrecht
The work of steel artist Roland Manders inspired this self-build in Utrecht, the Netherlands, which he shares with partner Hanne Caspersen. The three-storey, one-bedroom house has a façade of Corten steel panels neatly folded to echo the forms of neighbouring buildings.
As well as the walls and roof, the rust-toned metal wraps a dormer, window recess, bay and small chimney. The site was originally a garage block, and the couple spent ten years converting it into a home, doing all the building work themselves with a little help from friends.
Behind the new façade, which was designed by Zecc Architecten, the three-storey, timber-framed house has a simple layout that makes efficient use of its 95sqm of internal floorspace. There is a single main room on each floor and all three levels have some outdoor space, thanks to a sunken courtyard, a roof deck and a balcony.
Clever design tricks abound – instead of a window, the first-floor bay integrates a narrow, concealed rooflight that helps maintain privacy for a bathroom, while the ground floor features a wall of joinery that provides plenty of storage.
3. London townhouse renovation
Bringing light into every storey of a townhouse can be a challenge, as Andrea and Clive found when they and their 17-year-old son Ben moved into a five-storey home in Pimlico, central London.
The 300sqm, five-bedroom property was built in the 19th century, when the lower level was the servants’ quarters. Many of the rooms on this floor were dark, and at street height the space was completely open-plan and lacking any sense of cosiness.
Designed by architecture studio Proctor & Shaw, the renovation centred around removing sections of floor to create two large openings spanning the upper and lower ground levels. One is a lightwell, while the other includes an open-tread staircase.
The improvement in light is so significant that it was possible to remodel the ground floor, creating a snug, living room and home office separate from the entrance. The project cost £1,650 per sqm.
4. Restoration in Belgium
This townhouse in Ghent, Belgium, had suffered extensive damage after being ravaged by two separate fires. Graux & Baeyens Architecten brought the property back to life for a university tutor and her two teenager children who wanted a home in the heart of the city.
The renovation involved restoring the original layout to create a four-storey home with generous living spaces, three bedrooms and a study. There’s also a self-contained guest suite on the third floor, reached by a lift or the stairs.
The design retains a memory of the fires by preserving some of the charred timber joists and floorboards. Careful restoration allowed the original staircase and fireplaces to also be retained, although a new façade had to be built at the back of the house.
It was designed as a contemporary reinterpretation of the classically proportioned street-facing exterior, and includes a series of tall windows and doors that lead to a garden and an angular first-floor balcony. Thanks to the restrained approach, the project was completed for around £1,205 per sqm.
5. Pared-back renovation in London
A stone’s throw from Spitalfields Market, this east London terrace is home to a couple with two teenagers. The family had outgrown the house, but were reluctant to move away from their grandparents and friends on the same street.
Instead, they spent £950,000 extending the ground floor to create a generous kitchen and dining room, adding a basement living room, and converting the loft into a third en-suite bedroom – bringing the house to 169sqm in total.
The initial building work was overseen by contractor Studio Idealyc, before architect Jack Pannell of Common Ground Workshop was brought in to make sense of the new four-storey arrangement. His strategy was to keep things as simple and clutter-free as possible and to use raw material finishes.
The living spaces have concrete floors and ceilings, bare plasterwork, timber panelling and oversized windows. A meticulous attention to detail extends to a kitchen bench that lines up with a built-in seat on the patio.
6. Rooftop extension in London
A defining feature of this seven-storey townhouse in Notting Hill, central London, can be found on its uppermost level, where a timber roof deck and wildflower garden sit alongside a glazed study with views across the city rooftops.
Reached up a spiral staircase, this room provides an idyllic workspace for the home’s owner, who is an art dealer. This rooftop extension was added as part of a complete overhaul of the 418sqm house, which had previously been derelict and in need of major repair.
Overseen by architecture studio Boundary Space and interior designer Federica Palacios, the refurbishment restores much of the house’s original layout.
There’s a cinema on the lower ground floor, while the second, third and fourth floors contain five double bedrooms, including the main en-suite bedroom.
7. Narrow house in Belgium
Townhouses are often narrow, but this one takes things to extremes. In the centre of Ghent, Belgium, the house is the home and office of architects Natalie Allaert and Hannes Oppeel of Studio Haan.
The couple spent two years searching for a suitable property to renovate before coming across this one, which is 3m wide on one side and narrows down to just 2.2m on the other. Creative thinking was essential in planning the layout, which is organised over five storeys and includes one double bedroom.
Lightweight stairs align with split-level floors, eliminating the need for corridors, while the ground-floor bathroom features a double purpose door that can either close off the room completely or serve as a privacy screen for the shower. Elsewhere, a bath with a lid saves space on the first floor.
Despite the tricky site, the renovated building has two open-air spaces. These outdoor rooms include a second-floor roof terrace and a third-floor greenhouse filled with plants. As well as offering health benefits, these spaces help to improve the building’s sustainability.
Rainwater storage is incorporated under the terrace, which is topped with thermal solar panels under the terrace, that provide hot water. For a project cost of £1,851 per sqm, the house has 80sqm of living space on a footprint of just 21sqm.
8. Upside-down house in Brooklyn
Based in Brooklyn, USA, architects Nicko Elliott and Ksenia Kagner of design studio Civilian turned their 204sqm home upside down to make it more suitable for themselves and their two young children. The family live in the two lower floors of a three-storey, late 19th-century townhouse.
The revamp cost around £543,000 and involved moving the bedrooms to the garden level, while new living spaces were created under the high ceilings of the street-level storey above.
Custom-made furniture defines the new layout. Floor-to-ceiling maple joinery provides a partition and corridor between the living room at the front and a combined kitchen and dining room at the rear of the apartment. On one side of these units are bookshelves, on the other are a work-from-home desk and a bar, while a fridge, closet and loo are concealed in the middle.
Internal surfaces are clad in aluminium laminate. An oak staircase leads downstairs, which is where there are two bedrooms and a den that could also serve as a guest room.
9. Conservation area extension in Glasgow
Loader Monteith Architects oversaw the refurbishment of this 350sqm, five-bedroom townhouse in Glasgow, Scotland. It was designed for a couple in their thirties with three young children, and the ambition was to transform its previously disconnected kitchen into the heart of the home.
As the building is B listed and located in a conservation area, this posed a challenge. Historic Environment Scotland recommended adding a discrete extension, rather than cutting away the floorplates in the four-storey building.
This inspired a new, glazed dining room block crafted from concrete and steel to pick up the tones of the house’s red sandstone walls. This room and the kitchen are at a lower level than the rest of the house, and lead to the terrace and garden.
Underfloor heating makes the space feel cosy, while oak details including a deep architrave and an expertly crafted staircase balustrade create a clear definition between the old and new elements. Practice Loader Monteith Architects estimates that an equivalent project would cost around £200,000 today.
10. Reconfigured townhouse in London
Materials play a crucial role in this renovated 365sqm Georgian townhouse in Bloomsbury, central London, which is home to a couple with two young children.
Designed by architecture studio If_Do, the new additions are mostly crafted from wood to complement the period details of the Grade II listed building, but they also put a contemporary stamp on it.
The refurbishment involved reconfiguring the three lower levels of the five-bedroom house and adding a rear extension that provides a new living area and roof terrace above. Douglas fir panels and beams define the character of this room and its connecting staircase, while the rooms upstairs feature cherry wood architraves and joinery.
Standout details include a walk-over rooflight, which tops a lower ground-floor study, and a pivoting glass wall at the back of the house.