Family Commune

A new-build house, combined with an extension to the adjacent maisonette, to enable communal living on a 1970s estate in Bethnal Green.

As urban populations grow, we’ll be increasingly challenged to live communally, and in denser settings. This pair of homes in east London could be a model for a lifestyle spent in closer proximity, with its opportunistic reuse of an unpromising brownfield site, and shared outside space.

The project combines a new-build five-bedroom house and an extension to an adjacent maisonette for two related families who wished to live close together. The form of the new-build home is generated from a challenging set of practical conditions – rights of light, a large sewer running below and multiple party walls – but most importantly a desire to maximise outdoor space and internal light.

From the front door there is a vista through a small external court to a fireplace in the living room beyond. The hallway is the kitchen, the ‘captain’s bridge’ at the heart of the home. The efficient open plan steps irregularly so that each space flows yet feels distinct from the next. An external deck links this house to the adjacent extended maisonette through the combined rear gardens. With the fence between the plots removed, kids and adults move fluidly between the houses, sharing meals and childcare. We’ve noticed that the families’ open door policy extends to local kids from the estate, so it feels as though these new homes are rooted in their community rather than gentrified impostors.

Despite both projects being one-offs, bespoke to their clients and designed with spirit and care, we built them to an economic budget using standard materials and construction techniques drawn from speculative housing. This approach, together with the repeatable spatial layout, means that the house could potentially be scaled up in collaboration with a developer into a row – or other configuration – of multiple units.

April 2019 | Family Commune was featured in the @sundaytimeshome

April 2019 | Family Commune was featured on the AJ online

April 2019 | Our project on the ‘Tetris-like’ Mansford Estate was shortlisted for a London region 2019 RIBA Award


Mark Marshall / Hannah Bowers


Christmas at Family Commune

CW from top left: Wren (Birdie), Jesse, Tilly, Joseph, Alex [Thornhill Shann], Ted with Morris (Moose), Iain with Penny, Mark [Daykin Marshall Studio]

Topping out party

Construction progress

A repeatable model

Concept Design drawings

We picked Daykin Marshall Studio, liking what they’d done and hoping that - as
a young, ambitious practice - they’d do more for our little spot.

Mark at Daykin Marshall Studio understood what we wanted - homes that were comfortable in the wider 1970s estate, but kept their own personality; homes that had light, practical spaces; homes that were connected and still private; and homes that had cooking and large dining tables at their heart.

A few years later, the neighbouring property was for sale and Jesse had an idea for fences- down, joined-up family living. Iain and Tilly bought next door.

Their plan was a quick extension and early move date. But Planning failed, so - in frustration - Tilly suggested demolishing the place. That proved to be a great idea.

The delays meant both families could afford something more. Our plan was to build together.

When Ted and Jesse first moved into the bottom of the block, they found a note pinned inside the garden shed:

“To the current owner, I hope you continue to take care of this oasis in the heart of London. And don’t forget to feed the fishes!”

The fish were long dead. The garden remained a patch of sun and life.

The oasis

The tetris-like Mansford Estate in Bethnal Green