Property of the Week: This Russian doll extension in Lewisham is a wacky way to build a family home

Melissa York
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Photo: Andy Matthews

With house prices rising fast in previously unloved parts of London, those who’ve just managed to get on the property ladder later in the capital often find it hard to upsize.

That’s exactly the problem that befell the family of four who currently live in this post-war period property in Hither Green, Lewisham, when they tried to purchase a home with an additional bedroom to accommodate their growing family.

Once they decided to stay put and extend instead, local architecture practice Selencky///Parsons ( was commissioned to find a solution. And it found a particularly novel one that was inspired by Matryoshka, commonly known as Russian dolls.

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Luckily, this ex-local authority house was at the end of a terrace, so there was some opportunity to extend sideways, with a series of consecutive two-storey extensions that diminish in size to form a unique house within a house effect.

The house at night. Photo: Andy Matthews

“The side of the house has a piece of land which wasn’t being utilised due to its awkward shape and lack of privacy,” says Sam Selencky, director of the architecture practice in nearby Peckham. “So adding a simple square extension wasn’t possible. Our chosen route offered us the advantage of making use of all the space and delivering an even design.”

The unusual approach offsets the extensions against two pre-existing brick gable walls that retain the original period character of the property.

The planning application took eight weeks to be approved, then the family rented for seven months while the work was completed. It was finished in December 2015 to a budget of £120,000, adding a new master bedroom ensuite and a new open-plan ground floor layout. As a result, its value has increased significantly.

Inside the house. Photo: Andy Matthews

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“We’ve started to be contacted by other people with similar-shaped properties, asking for the same solution,” says Selencky. “It shows that you can still do something interesting to a former council house and you don’t have to limit your aspirations.”

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