South London architect David Money on how buying a Camberwell terrace house with a friend meant he could create his dream home, with cool contemporary spaces that grant each housemate plenty of privacy
Lead Image: Taran Wilkhu
The idea of communal living probably invokes memories of queuing for the shower or finding your milk carton empty, again. But with ever-increasing property prices, south east London architect David Money is showing how it can not only be a sound investment but can also allow for some exquisite design choices.
It was only thanks to co-buying with his friend Kane Chan that he could afford this £750,000 Camberwell terrace house in 2015, which was a perfect opportunity for the architect who wanted to demolish and rebuild a property ideal for communal living.
After £400,000 in serious renovations, including demolishing and rebuilding a new steel frame for the house, Money moved into the Calais Street property just under a year later with his co-buyer Chan, Chan’s partner Donald Gilbert and their mutual friend Thein Win.
Now the group of friends, who have known each other for around 15 years, love sharing a house together: ‘I’m single, I like living with my friends – that’s the way I’ve pretty much lived the last seven or eight years,’ says Money.
‘It’s a kind of win-win situation. You get to share with close friends, can cook together, and live together and socialise together, but at the same time you can pool your financial resources and live in a bigger house.’
From the beginning of the design stage, Money worked to create a home that balanced both spacious shared spaces and private living quarters for his housemates. The ground floor is a perfect example of the former with its open plan space featuring a living area, a kitchen and sliding glass doors leading to the beautiful garden.
The whole house is kind of designed around communal eating and socialising space so we take turns to cook every night
‘The whole house is kind of designed around communal eating and socialising space so we take turns to cook every night,’ he tells me. ‘And when it’s your turn everyone comes home and you all sit and talk around the table and you catch up on what you’ve been doing and it’s just a nice a way to unwind after a day, rather than coming home to a place on your own again.’
He adds: ‘They do say that the most successful families are always the ones that eat together, at a dining table and engage – I think that’s true. So that’s what you try and do.’ The major design feature that allows for this is the permanent 16-seat dining table in the centre of the kitchen. Built with a steel frame, which is welded to the steel foundations of the house, and a concrete worktop, it can’t ever be moved.
While Money admits that it might not have been the most practical design choice, he wouldn’t change it. ‘I think the designer inside me just wanted to do this because we could,’ he enthuses. ‘In some ways, it’s quite nice how it permanently sits there because it emphasises the heart of our house. If you’ve always got to have the table there, you’ve always got to eat at the table – it’s not an option. It can’t be moved.’
Although, as with any adult communal living arrangement, Money was more than aware that privacy was also a vital element for his housemates. With this in mind, he created living quarters that feel like studio flats.
We don’t want to be queuing for the bathroom in the morning and those kinds of things
Chan and Gilbert share a first-floor bedroom, which has a living space and shower room, while Win rents the loft conversion, which has its own shower room as well. ‘We don’t want to be queuing for the bathroom in the morning and those kinds of things,’ Money breaks into a laugh.
His en suite room is also on the first floor with the added element of a mezzanine gym. And, as a master at maximising space, he also designed a unique multi-purpose ladder and bookshelf, which leads up to it.
Such design quirks are at the heart of Money’s style as he says he loves creating interesting spaces in the house. For instance, from this mezzanine, there’s a little hatch that you can open that looks over the stairwell to allow in natural light, which can be lacking in such a longhouse.
Where he could he’s also integrated bare brickwork, exposed timber structures and concrete floors. The only colours have been brought in through furniture and the interior doors, inspired by Charles Eames’ favoured palette of mustard, sky blue and pink.
The use of plywood throughout the whole house from the staircase to the kitchen appliances adds to this, with its natural wood finish and raw end grain. This gives the contemporary design a slight edge of imperfection and a lived-in quality, which is something that he tries to bring to his Oval-based eponymous architectural practice.
‘That’s something that’s always interested me – how to reconcile modern contemporary design with people’s need to have a cosy and functional home. That modern design doesn’t just mean stark, sterile interiors, where you can’t put a magazine down without everything looking a mess,’ he says. ‘It’s got to be liveable.’