When a newlywed couple decided they needed more space for their seven children, they looked no further than the garden behind their Victorian home in Battersea, London. But this is no playhouse or mother-in-law cottage – it’s a modern five-bedroom home sunken into a concrete courtyard to provide a sense of privacy and tranquility.
Bringing the two families together without giving up their main home required a creative solution, especially since the couple wanted a two-story dwelling that would still meet local restrictions that prevent overlooking neighboring properties. An addition in the back garden was initially envisioned as a place for the couple’s older children to live, while they stayed in the main home, but with the arrival of a new baby, the couple decided they’d prefer to live in the new home themselves.
Architecture firm De Matos Ryan excavated the garden to create a high-sided, watertight concrete courtyard that effectively drops the first floor to a subterranean level, making the home look single-story from the street. Shielded from view of the neighbors, the ground level is entirely encased in glass walls, while the upper floor gets light from skylights and strategically placed windows.
A bridge leads from the second level to the street for easy access, while the courtyard between the two houses acts as a protected place for the younger children to play. Sinking the house below ground level also gives it a feeling of tranquility, removing it from the bustle of London without giving up any conveniences.