Formerly a schoolhouse property, this rundown London warehouse breathes new life as a modern two-bedroom abode after a complex revamp.

A large living space combines the best of all elements: exposed truss, steel framed windows, wood accents, simple pendant light,  and mod furnishings.

It won’t take long to realize why the dramatic conversion of the Defoe Road House was truly a labor of love. Completed as a personal project by James Davies of Paper House Project—a London–based architect and design studio—this intricate transformation was certainly no small feat. 

Thanks to the level of needed refurbishments combined with restricted site access and historical considerations, innovative construction and strategic design solutions were continuously required throughout the remodel. Yet, the hard work paid off, as the remarkable property is now virtually unrecognizable. Scroll ahead for a fascinating glimpse inside.

The existing warehouse was left abandoned and run down, in need of a new owner, constructive repair, and a new life.

The rundown warehouse was in desperate need of constructive repair. In the initial stages of the project, complex negotiations were required to gain a right of way for access, connection to services, and ultimately permission for the building’s new use. 

Rory Gardiner

Redevelopments in the neighborhood had left the warehouse concealed inside a courtyard with access unsuitable for construction vehicles. Thus, the team had to design a kit of parts, with each component small and light enough to be carried by two people. These various parts were fabricated off site and then brought to the courtyard to be constructed in place.

Operable doors and windows and doors provide fresh air ventilation off a newly created interior courtyard space.

Operable doors and windows provide fresh air ventilation off a newly created courtyard space.

Rory Gardiner

From the exterior, the building blends in seamlessly with the vernacular of the neighborhood. The original brick cladding has been restored and filled with gridded steel frame windows to draw abundant natural light inside.

Gridded steel frame windows were added throughout the home to provide natural daylight to a city dwelling, unique for a London Residence of this type.

Gridded steel frame windows have been added throughout the home to provide natural daylight to the city dwelling, unique for a London residence of this type.

Rory Gardiner

A interior courtyard is accessible from the bedroom, providing an unexpected secluded oasis right in the heart of an urban setting.

An interior courtyard is accessible from the bedroom, providing an unexpected secluded oasis.

Rory Gardiner

On the interior, there are light-filled, two-story volumes that provide unique spaces atypical of London homes in the area. The architect succeeded in creating these rooms through a close collaboration with a design engineer. As a result, the open plan minimizes the visible interior structure while creating a cohesive, voluminous space. 

A large living space combines the best of all elements: exposed truss, steel framed windows, wood accents, simple pendant light,  and mod furnishings.

A large living space combines the best of all elements: exposed cable trusses, steel framed windows, wood accents, polished concrete floors, mod finishings, and a simple pendant light. 

Rory Gardiner



Thanks to the combination of steel trusses with cable rod connections and a perimeter ring beam with concrete corner bonders, the original brick envelope is held together and to support the recycled slate roof. 

Large steel framed windows and doors frame the open kitchen and dining space.  Modern pendant lights hang above each cooking and eating surface.

Large steel framed windows and doors frame the open kitchen and dining space. Modern pendant lights hang above each cooking and eating surface.

Rory Gardiner

Contemporary materials mix with warehouse remnants, resulting in an industrial aesthetic. The two-bedroom layout focuses on everyday living, creating open spaces quietly divided by the internal staircase. Daylight fills the interior through the new steel windows and an interior courtyard. 

A black marble back splashed and matched oak veneer door fronts contrast with the white walls and light wood panels throughout the home.  Flat panel cabinets add an extra modern flair.

A black marble backsplash contrasts effortlessly with the white walls and light wood panels throughout the home. Flat panel cabinets add an extra modern flair.

Rory Gardiner

The staircase is hidden between wood paneled walls adorned with white, wooden slats, allowing light to filter into the stairway.

The staircase is concealed between wood paneled walls adorned with white, wooden slats, allowing light to filter in while also creating a subtle division between spaces. 

Rory Gardiner

The wooden staircase winds its way between the main living space and the sleeping spaces above.

The wooden staircase winds its way between the living space and sleeping areas above.

Rory Gardiner

Custom built-ins provide functionality in every nook.

Custom built-ins provide functionality in every nook.

Rory Gardiner

Vaulted ceilings allow for a spacious loft, complete with the second bedroom.  Skylights draw plentiful daylight into the lofted space.

Vaulted ceilings allow for a spacious loft, complete with the second bedroom. Skylights draw plentiful daylight into the airy space.

Rory Gardiner

Wooden panels provide a contrast of warmth against the white walls and fixtures.

Wooden panels provide a contrast of warmth against the white walls and fixtures. The clean lines and industrial materials combined with an innate understanding of the building’s context result in a chic, contemporary dwelling that brings back to life a forgotten piece of property.

Rory Gardiner

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Paper House Project

Builder / General Contractor: Hexagon Construction 

Structural Engineer: Michael Humphries 


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