A perfect match on Design for Me… for a modernist apartment renovation

In August 2019, Jonas posted his project to Design for Me, looking for a renovation architect for his apartment, located in a modernist block in Shoreditch. With just a few key details Design for Me instantly matched him up with some fantastic residential architects.

After consultations and fee proposals, Jonas chose Mark and Natalie (left), based in London

You can see their profile below to shortlist them for your home building or renovation project:



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The client’s requirements

‘We have a small but lovely space in a Berthold Lubetkin designed building on Columbia Road in Shoreditch. We’d like to make the two-bed flat more suited to our needs and convenient to live in. Not just a refresh for its own sake.

Better storage solutions are key – probably built in for master bedroom, as well as considering how we use under bed storage etc but also looking for innovative solutions for our many bikes and maintenance equipment – we’re a cycling couple. This extends to our intended use for the spare room as training room first but still able to take guests. Door placement and changes to the interior walls are all fair game. The kitchen and bathroom are worth considering – there is a lot of potential to significantly improve their use. I work in clean energy and would like to move away from natural gas. Heat pumps seem too expensive and too big an administrative burden, but our heating needs are low so I’d like to explore underfloor electric heating and high quality point of use water heating. Aesthetically there’s a great opportunity to bring coherence and modernity to the flat. Its standout worst feature are the cheap faux Georgian interior doors with gold handles. Definitely an area we would appreciate help on.’


The architect on the brief

Mark and Natalie (architects):

‘The refurbishment of the client’s apartment in Berthold Lubetkin’s Grade II listed Sivill House. With only 65 sqm available, the young clients required a number of unique additions to the two-bed,12th floor property including a bicycle storage and training area, a study, a versatile second bedroom and a casual eating and sitting space within the kitchen.  The clients also aspired to replace the gas supplied heating and hot water system with an all-electric alternative.’



The design process

Mark and Natalie (architects)

‘In order to deliver the many components of the brief and responding to the clients’ budget, the project embraced low-cost fabrication and utilised standard building materials in inventive ways wherever possible; this included lower grade plywood used as internal cladding, off the shelf and cost-effective bespoke items, substrates as flooring, lightweight polycarbonate for screens, and acrylic mirrors.

Our intention was to form an aesthetic based on craft and material, as well as expose the merits of the existing structure, giving richness and warmth to its inhabitants. The rigidity of the original layout did not provide opportunity for new programmes and interaction, such as working from home, without spaces becoming convoluted or subdivided into smaller areas. With only minimal demolition and limited intervention, the proposal addressed these problems by creating flexibility and adaptable spaces that lend and borrow both physical space and light to enable spaces to be used in multiple ways as and when needed.

Fundamental to the project was the removal of all gas services with the replacement of an electrical system; a significant part of the budget was for replacing the existing gas system with a heat battery system which, using an off-peak tariff, charges overnight and provides 210L of hot water for use throughout the day. The unit is compact and requires little to no maintenance. The heating is provided by contemporary electric radiators, controlled individually, to provide heat only where needed.


The finished result

Mark and Natalie (architects):

The design sought to celebrate the subtly embedded structural framework, connecting to the identity of the building, stripping back areas to reveal original concrete beams, punching through a bedroom and living room wall and integrating timber-clad adaptive furniture and bespoke metalwork to give warmth, colour and light to the apartment’s spaces, creating beautiful and practical structures and forms, full of craft and expression.





Project team: Natalie Savva and Mark Rist, Shaomin He
Location: Tower Hamlets London
Area: 65 sqm
Structural Engineer: Osborne Edwards Ltd
Date of completion: April 2022

Photography by Studio Naama


On the finished result


“We had a bit of trepidation; is it really that smart to open your bedroom to your living room and vice versa? Will we just end up leaving it shut? But it’s been wonderful. The feeling of space. The plants that break the view. We’re better connected, too – we can chat more easily while getting on with our day. And the light! When we want, closing the panels makes for a clean, peaceful bedroom. But so far, we’ve mainly left them open! We love it – a testament to what can be achieved in small spaces with great design.”


A happy client

‘We have loved working with Mark and Natalie from Studio Naama for our flat refurbishment in a Modernist high rise apartment building. Right from the start, we were captivated by the creative ideas they presented to us for how life in the flat could be substantially improved and wanted to discover where they could lead. We haven’t been disappointed! The designs we will now be turning into reality – under their careful and professional management of the contractor – are creative, beautiful but very pragmatic and efficient.

We had challenging demands for what we wanted to achieve from the design and throughout, they listened carefully and managed to incorporate them without losing the essence of their original vision, despite the challenging space constraints. Mark and Natalie’s attention to detail, high standards of professionality, care and a constant eye on the cost implications have made the whole process a reassuring delight. We are very excited to see their hard work come to fruition and to experience our new home!’


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Emily  Design for Me


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