A minimal, monastic home inspired by the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi

When writer Anabel Cutler bought a former garage plot in north London, she had the rare opportunity to create her own urban haven from scratch

Street with wooden fence; wooden structure, roof, trees and sky appear behind fence
Paul Raeside

Even if you were one of those people who is utterly in love with London, you’d still have to admit that life in the capital comes with certain stresses. In a city that’s so densely populated, it’s nigh on impossible to find solace, and I had reached the point at which my best chance for survival was to create a peaceful, internally-focused living space to provide an antidote to the chaos. I craved a home that was simple and beautiful – almost monastic. So, when my partner Steve Wallington and I bought a garage plot in London’s Kensal Rise, it was a tantalising chance to create a new space that was totally unique and responded as much to our philosophy on living well as it did to our idea of a functional home.

A plaster finished corridor with arched doorway leading into living pace with sofa, side table and skylights
Paul Raeside

Building a house from scratch in London is a rare opportunity, and it came with the added treat of being able to stay true to our design aesthetic. We agreed that the principles and materials that would bring this concept to life should follow the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which embraces authenticity, simplicity and natural design, and celebrates beauty in the flaws that come with age. Ultimately, we were guided by the curved arches and pools of light seen in JMW Turner’s 1819 sketch, Interior of an Italian Church, in which the play of sun on the walls has an integral role in creating atmosphere.

‘I craved a home that was simple and beautiful – almost monastic.’

White corner kitchen with clay plaster walls, and shelf
Paul Raeside

The Japanese-led architectural practice Takero Shimazaki Architects fitted perfectly with our ideals and, from the outset, they had a real understanding of what we were trying to achieve. Working with them over the three years it took to plan and build the two-bedroom house felt like a truly creative collaboration, free of any ego-driven decisions.

Bed with layered textured blue bedding and yellow accent pillowcases against concrete wall
Paul Raeside

‘The internal concrete structure and the strategically made openings, including the arches and the high-level window above the stairs, bring in just enough light to articulate the form of the building ’, says Takero Shimazaki. ‘The external weathered chestnut wood façade was chosen to closely match the tone of the concrete. This home is a hidden, warm oasis of tactility and sensual light.’ It is everything we’d hoped for, and somewhere that gets better with time, growing and changing as we live our lives in it. We can shut the door and find stillness and peace. It’s a modern interpretation of the word ‘home’. t-sa.co.uk

For the full house tour see ELLE Decoration October 2018 Cover House

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