Primarily a labour of love, Unit C, Room in the Corner was an attempt to create an orderly sanctuary space in a part of north London that has thus far escaped gentrification. Located in an Edwardian-era piano factory in the Harringay Warehouse District, the main challenges presented were sound and noise pollution, waterproofing and draft sealing.
The project was seen as a chance to further my carpentry and cabinetry experience through self-study and experimentation. With working hours restricted to weekends and holidays, the project took roughly 7 months from start to completion. This meant most of the jobs were at most two-day-builds and so a lot was learned about what does and doesn’t work with reduced time availability. Thus, technique and speed of execution improved dramatically from the very first bit of cladding to the final act of dropping in the tatami mats.
The north-west facing wall of the room was actually the glazed roof of the building and this allowed for incredible natural light throughout the seasons. Although heat-gain was only a minor issue in summer due to the façade’s orientation, heat loss in winter was astronomical. This lead to experiments in double-glazing using shrink-wrap plastic sheeting (notably, this required reframing the entire glazed wall). Unfortunately condensation issues ultimately scrubbed the double-glazing strategy despite interventions using troughs of first calcium chloride and then silicate crystals. When icicles started forming between the glass and plastic sheet the double-glazing strategy was abandoned and a more lo-fi strategy of sleeping under a good duvet was reverted to.
The skirt of the glazed roof was an ancient timber-plank-under-asphalt-cloth construction that did little to stop even the gentlest breeze from entering the room. Thus the first job undertaken was to clad this section with a layer of iso-thermic bubblewrap followed by 3mm MDF board. This would later be completely sealed with a 35mm layer of mineral wool under 15mm plyboard. A final touch to this section under the glazed roof was a built-in office/entertainment unit complete with a USB/mains socket and drawers behind which more power points were concealed.
The high pitch of the glazed roof created a uniquely trapezoid space with next-to-no headroom on one side and a 4m ceiling on the other. Never one to have quite enough storage space, I decided to build in a floor-to-ceiling stepped shelf/cupboard unit. Materiality was explored here by finishing the visible side of the unit in belt-sanded OSB board. The shallow shelves were left open and the deeper cupboard section covered by linen panels fashioned after Japanese noren.
As I didn’t want the bed to be next to the radiator, the mattress was laid along the external brick wall of the room. Wanting to make this space cosier, the brick wall was fitted with low cladding (15mm birch ply over 35mm mineral wool). A shallow shelf capped of the cladding so as to create a sunny home for some beloved houseplants.
The final task undertaken was to raise the floor 300mm so as to create more storage space and dampen sound travelling up from the room below. Runners were fixed lengthways across the floor over which boards were laid to support two Japanese grass mats (tatami) and a mattress. The board under the mattress was only raised enough to level it off with the tatami mats, however this provided just enough space to lay a carpet of egg boxes below for additional sound-proofing (surprisingly yet fortunately, six months’ worth of egg boxes collected from five housemates only yielded enough material to tile under the mattress). Floor space left over at the foot of the bed and the mats was covered with plyboard to create extra storage space and tie the room together.