Hackney self-build dream: a chance encounter led one architect to create a brand new home on the derelict plot next door

Although architects and designers often collaborate, it is not often that they are equally concerned about the structure and the furniture within a building. For multi-hyphenate architect/designer/developer Daniel Sanderson, however, the interiors of a house are just as important as its structure. Sanderson says, “I have never wanted just to build a house.” A modern-day Renaissance man who studied photography before enrolling in architecture at the Royal College of Arts, and now runs design company sandersonstudios.co.uk, he is also adept at garden design and sculpture. “I am interested in the intersection between design, where architecture, art, and furniture creates a cohesive space. They are all equally important to me. It’s about creating a world that reflects your personality and where you can have lots of fun. I value playful touches. “The accidental developer” In 2016, Sanderson lived in a top-floor apartment in a Victorian townhouse in Stoke Newington. He had a bird’s-eye view of his neighbor’s large, derelict backyard on Jenner Road. “One day, there was a knock on my door. Someone was asking me about buying the garden. So I thought, “Why don’t we do that?” He became an “accidental” builder a few years later. Sanderson built a new house in 2018 with the support of Hackney council’s innovative planning officers. Today’s four-storey Brickfields House, named after the Victorian industry that once dominated the area, is a two-parter. It consists of a pair homes. Both houses are characterized by brickwork from Belgium and oak joinery. The shell was completed in 18 months. Sanderson was able to finish the lower floors of the home last year after the two-storey home was sold. Sanderson says that funding the project was a challenge and that he did the fitout himself. He wanted Brickfields to stand out from the original terraced homes in the Cazenove or Northwold conservation areas. He says, “It was crucial I didn’t create any kind of Victorian pastiche.” “The house had to be modern, but also reflect the heritage of the area. Bricked-up windows are a nod to the past. He instead paid tribute to his design heroes, Ettore Sottsass, a postmodern Italian legend, and his collective, the Memphis Group. They believed that the objects around you could influence your mood and emotions. Sanderson’s piece of resistance is the recently completed four-bedroom home on the two lower levels. Sanderson has lived and worked in the home for two years. It is a highly personal space that reflects his inner life. It is a symphony made of brickwork, wood, and hand-turned furniture. Sanderson also uses the home to display his incredible photographs of industrial landscapes taken with a large format camera. The home is located below the pavement, behind a smart brick wall and has a gated entry. The lower-ground floor kitchen is filled with light through folding glazed doors and pitched skylights. Solid oak cabinetry lines the rear wall. A splashback of thin wooden louvers runs the length of this room. The space is framed by Douglas fir beams. I enjoyed refining my skills as furniture maker, turning each piece on the lathe, and smoking them. The dining room has a wall cut out, which allows for a view to the sunken, Seventies-inspired living area. Sanderson has hand-crafted the garden store and all the living spaces around it. Sanderson grew up watching his father build cars, boats, and planes from scratch. This gave him a strong sense of self-reliance as well as a love for DIY. He says that his dad built another house in his back yard. “Dad believed that if he couldn’t buy the item he wanted, he would source the parts and get on with it. “Shell build: GBP600,000. Internal fitout: Between GBP150,000 to GBP200,000. Sanderson purchased his dream piece: a lathe, while he was locked down. He spent hundreds of hours in an onsite workshop creating his own furniture. His home was filled with custom-made, handcrafted pieces, including tables, chairs, sofas, and even a kitchen island. Sanderson says, “I loved honing my skills as a cabinet maker and furniture maker, hand turning each piece of furniture on the lathe, then smoking them.” My favourite pieces are the chairs and sofas in the living room. To cover them, he even bought raw Japanese denim. It was extremely satisfying. “The dining room has a wall cut out, which allows a view through to The Modern House’s sunken, Seventies-inspired living area / The Modern HouseA green urban refuge. These unique touches are what make the home stand out. It was also a great opportunity to use the arc of sunlight to design the building’s layout and to gain solar energy. The large, south-facing windows on the main elevation and the dark brick create passive heating that significantly reduces energy costs. The zinc cladding wraps around the lower floors. Sanderson was determined not to waste any timber. The Douglas fir staircase was constructed from leftover construction materials. All other materials were used to build the furniture and accessories. Sanderson states that he was aware of the fact that the interiors could look very stark with the dark bricks so he used a lot more timber. Contrasting textures play an important role everywhere. Richlite, made up of hundreds of layers recycled paper, was dyed and pressed by Sanderson for the island and kitchen work surfaces. He says Richlite has a beautiful patinated look and almost feels like leather. Sanderson said that he loves plants and is improving his skills at not killing them. The main living space features white bird of heaven, wild banana, and asparagus fern. In the kitchen, there are Japanese sago palms and areca palms. The brick-lined courtyard garden features crimson sentry, Japanese maples, and other ferns. The main bedroom on the ground floor has an organic feel with its blue and green paints contrasted with the dark ebonised floors below. It opens onto a terrace that can be used as a table and chairs area. The lower ground floor houses two additional bedrooms with French windows overlooking the courtyard. Sanderson is currently using one of them as his workshop. Sanderson is currently packing up his lathe, hundreds of tools and putting the home on the market with The Modern House for GBP1.65million. He says that he is tempted to stay, but it could be overwhelming to live in a place I have made almost everything. He is also hungry to do it again and is considering building one or two carbon neutral houses on a plot of land in Nottingham. He muses, “I would also love to add metalworking” to his list of skills. “Now I know that anything is possible. “Get the lookSmoked Bronze toggle and dimmer switches, GBP75. Buster & PunchNdebele Printer 1, GBP160. Darkroom LondonAngui Mirror, GBP197. AYTM DesignWhite bird-of-paradise (Strelitzia Nicolai), Patch plantsChalice vase, Ettore Sottsass. GBP790. Artemest