Cousins & Cousins

We Design Homes introduces us to Cousins & Cousins, the London-based architecture practice who employ a masterful ability to sculpt space into bright, elegant places to live.

Cousins & Cousins

Ben and Jelena Cousins established their eponymous architecture practice in 2012. In the ensuing decade they have crafted a portfolio of homes that are as beautiful to look at as they are to live in. ‘Our skills are complementary to each other,’ Ben points out. ‘Jelena brings her creativity and I bring my understanding of detail, construction and management to everything we do.’ 

The pair also bring the eye of the sculptor to much of their work. Particularly when dealing with older homes and formerly convoluted floorplans, their approach is redolent of the noted 20th Century Spanish sculptor, Eduardo Chillida.

 

Chillida sought to remove mass from his artworks, rather than add. The results were stunning, often monumental works where the sculpture was defined as much by its negative space as by its mass.

The Cousins’ Kenwood Lee House and The Vegetarian Cottage are just two examples where the incision and removal of structure, like giant Jenga blocks, has opened up space, invited light and accessed views from within period houses. Voids and bridges delineate space and create compelling interior views as well.

de beauvoir by cousins & cousins – jack hobhouse

What is immediately apparent in the practice’s projects, is the devotion to craft. Even a cursory view of their website reveals the beauty of precision. Immaculate shadow-lines edge the joinery.

Christopher Moore, We Design Homes

What is immediately apparent in the practice’s projects, is the devotion to craft. Even a cursory view of their website reveals the beauty of precision. Immaculate shadow-lines edge the joinery. Board-cast concrete worthy of Brutalism’s high-watermark line the walls. Alignment of planes and openings that speak of an almost maniacal attention to the details. Ben notes the importance of good collaborators when it comes to making the difficult look easy. ‘This kind of design and construction requires skilled builders and craftspeople.’

“That kind of attention means a lot to us. We are really interested in how things go together, how things are made” – Jelena

Beauty is definitely more than skin deep, and the practice’s portfolio is invested with attention to the practicalities of living as well. ‘The home has to function practically as well as aesthetically,’ Jelena explains. ‘We start with an idea of the furniture layout right from the beginning, always thinking about the 3D nature of space.’ Ben concurs. ‘The interior design is not applied on the surface, its intrinsic to the architecture.’ The internal spaces are inextricably linked to the external spaces.

On their as-yet unbuilt Everson Road House, the primary architectural gesture is an expansive concrete wall that rises up along the right-hand property boundary. The sheer plane is a striking feature, drawing natural daylight deep into the ground-floor volume and serving as an axis to a two-storey stair and glass atrium. The wall and stair also work as buffers to the adjoining trainline. It’s a wonderful example of interior architecture and external architecture working hand-in-glove on what might otherwise have been considered a heavily compromised site.

It might be related to a yearning for the sunny climes of Jelena’s Croatian heritage, but the practice is also adept at sculpting with that most delicate of materials – light. It is a fundamental consideration to their designs, from the top-lit atriums to miraculously sunny basements. ‘Access to sunlight is so important for wellbeing,’ Jelena notes. ‘Being in light is being in nature.’ Using The Vegetarian Cottage as an example, the pair persuaded the client to install a long sliding glass door and floor-to-ceiling glass window to create a corner aspect, and maximise the prospect to the rear garden and to ample natural light. ‘They weren’t sure to begin with,’ Ben recounts. ‘They were worried that the rear elevation was a bit unbalanced. But they were persuaded and later told us that it has had a dramatic affect on how they live their lives.’

de beauvoir by cousins & cousins – jack hobhouse

kenwood lee house by cousins & cousins – Adam Williams

Cousins & Cousins’ brand of architecture is the kind that requires real commitment to make it look so effortless. Imbued with a calmness and elegance, theirs is a portfolio of truly beautiful spaces sculpted to delight.

Portrait by Laurence Cendrovicz

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