Pattern and light, designed with individual inspiration
North-east London, nestled between Islington and Hackney, is where architect Zoe Chan designed and built the compact ‘Herringbone House’ in 2013. It’s a small space: two stories on a plot of land, irregularly shaped, just 30 metres long. In rainy London, there’s nothing more important than letting daylight in to lift the mood: the house is cannily designed in an L-shape with courtyards at both the front and back so that a maximum amount of light can reach the interiors of both floors. The courtyards were inspired by Chan’s Chinese heritage and the traditional Chinese courtyard houses siheyuan. The house replaces a derelict space lumbered with a garage and storage shed.
The house has quite a few aspects that appeal to the team at Interface: the innovative use of materials, the creation of pattern, the smart use of light and perhaps most of all, the individual inspiration and creativity used to make it manifest. What’s most striking is the use of an everyday building material in a unique way that looks both modern and classic, with a bit of whimsy injected.
Creating her own pattern of herringbone in brick is a truly inspired design feature. Inside a steel frame, bricks have been infilled to create a recognisable zig zag where the brick relates to the Victorian terraces in the neighbourhood but the pattern marks it as original. In light-coloured brick, the pattern is subtle from afar and becomes stronger and more evident the closer you get to the house, what Chan calls ‘my own personal expression using brickwork as the basis’.
It provides a striking façade and also frames the large windows in dramatic way. The herringbone pattern is logical for brickwork: the bricks are laid perpendicular to each other, resulting in a broken zig zag. In the similar chevron pattern, blocks meet point to point, making a zig zag that is continuous, requiring each piece to be cut at an angle (hence chevrons are found in wood parquet floors rather than brick).
Interface’s exciting Skinny Planks range can be used in the same way, for you to create your own Herringbone pattern underfoot, in a vast range of colours. With a shape half the width and twice the length of Interface’s square titles, these modules of 25 cm x 1 metre, can also be laid perpendicular to create a zig zag of your choice, whether in contrasting colour blocks, or soft colour gradations.
Zoe’s is evidently an architect that values continuity and thematic coherence. The interior of the house, bathed in light from skylights and windows that reach from floor to ceiling, is of a similar hue to the brickwork outside: all pale whites, greys, beiges and soft pinks in a mixture of surfaces: tile and timber floors, with Scandinavian furniture to complement the interiors. A herringbone pattern in Skinny Planks in soft neutral colours would fit right in here, the interior pattern matching the exterior, with an interesting contrast in scale and material.
Atelier Chanchan is a design and architecture practice based in London with Zoe Chan as its founder. Zoe was born in London to a Shanghainese father and Cantonese mother and, at only 31 years old, is combining architecture and art to create urban installations that are wowing London – and beyond.