Private house with architect's office. Designed 1967-8, built 1970-73 by Tom Kay for himself and his family.
Reason for Listing
No. 23 Murray Mews, built 1970-3 by the architect Tom Kay for himself and his family, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural quality: the materials are hard, but their effect is softened by the clever use of clerestorey lighting, the detailing is consistent, and the little structure works as an ensemble thought through from first principles;
* Planning interest: an ingenious use of a tiny site constrained by planning requirements; the building combines spacious, partly top-lit family accommodation with the architect's office and a student flat set below.
Tom Kay (1935-2007) bought the site in 1962 when the houses to the front were being acquired by the Metropolitan Borough of St Pancras, which was looking to increase housing densities in the area and to sell off the backland sites. After an initial planning refusal by the local authority, who wanted to enforce a 10ft building line, Kay won an appeal enabling him to build right on to the street, although the scheme was designed with a frontage that could be moved back if the road was widened. No. 22 is partially supported on the house by Richard Gibson next door. Kay's design respects the very different building lines of his neighbours on either side, being on line with the pavement at ground-floor level and set back on the upper floor, thus acting as a point of mediation between the two. Builders erected the frame and made it watertight, installing the windows and doors, and Kay himself did the internal joinery, staircase and ceilings, save that for the kitchen. The house was designed to a complex brief of scenarios depending on the future size of his family and his office, with space that could be let out as a separate flat if necessary. A living room at the upper level allowed maximum light with small windows and top lighting.
The house was reviewed by Colin Amery in 1975 as 'a very successful explosion of space...this sense of space in a house on a relatively small site is a great achievement. The finishes are hard and the whole house has a toughness which is softened by the impeccable detailing in the specially made kitchen fittings and staircase. This house has been designed with an uncompromising logic that is in no way doctrinaire. Every opportunity has been taken to maximise space, light and volume and levels on a small site, and the result is a truly innovative house.' ('Three Houses', in Architectural Review, 1975). 22. Murray Mews won an International Prize for Architecture in 1974, and a Civic Trust Commendation the same year.
MATERIALS: stock brick, with sloping roofs incorporating patent roof lights, and extensive use of brick paviours inside and out.
PLAN: two storeys with storage gallery, garage and roof terrace, on tiny mews site 18m by 7m, part of which was threatened by road widening. Very deep plan determined around one internal structural wall and the staircase, but otherwise designed to be flexible. The principal living area is on the upper level, maximising the light. More flexible accommodation below, including a garage, an architect's studio with its own door, and a bedroom with its own bathroom which can also be entered separately and thus used as a studio flat.
EXTERIOR: stark, blocky, somewhat fortress-like exterior with separate volumes strongly expressed but few openings on the street front. Principal entrance on first floor up external brick stairs and set behind small dining patio; this also incorporates patent rooflights to the studio below. Windows and glazed doors have thick timber surrounds. Part-paved patio to rear.
INTERIORS: exposed brick walls (even the clamps joining the house to that next door are visible), with rendered movable walls, roof and galleries. Built-in kitchen designed by the architect, full-height Columbian pine veneered internal doors, and tiled floors. Slate worktops and door cills.
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.