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Portugal Place, Cambridge

Portugal Place is a charming street of listed Georgian townhouses within a pedestrianised part of central Cambridge. Having been used as student accommodation for the past 20 years the house was in need of renovation. Our Client decided to pursue an extensive renovation to make the house suitable as a family home.

The basement was unusable as a habitable space. The two subterranean rooms had little to no natural daylight, inadequate ventilation and were accessed via a steep and narrow staircase which led directly back to the ground floor living area. The kitchen, also accessed via a precipitous staircase, was small and disconnected from the dining and living room, and further separated the house from its small external courtyard.

The key architectural intervention was to open up the basement to the rest of the house and to open the internal spaces up to natural daylight. The kitchen was relocated into the basement, and the old kitchen area converted into a dining space to create a smooth connection between all the levels and to open up a positive connection into the rear garden from each of these internal spaces. The winding staircase, inspired by Kettles Yard, is a delicate compact sculptural form which brings movement and delight to the connecting spaces.

The alterations were in keeping with the natural and breathable nature of the house, letting vapour travel through the walls. Lime plaster and clay paints were used throughout. Natural wood fibre insulation was used in the newly insulated walls and roof space. The original bricks were re-used from site. Natural and local materials were prioritised as was durability with meticulous detailing. Built in joinery was purpose made. The kitchen cupboards and cabinets are made of solid oak and the kitchen tiles are English Limestone. The new mechanical and electrical components and appliances were all chosen for energy savings and the dwelling was divided into three heating zones for fuel efficiency.

The Client who currently lives in London is eager to retire to this home when the time comes. In the meantime, lucky tenants!