London is now so built-up that finding a good piece of land to build on can be a real challenge. But if you are willing to create something really special, there are still narrow plots of land available if you look hard enough.

Sometimes this type of plot is overlooked because it is surrounded by multiple neighbours and often it might be a difficult shape to work with. However, with a bit of creativity and great architects, there is no reason that this type of plot should remain undeveloped, especially if you have an idea that is in harmony with the rest of the area. De Rosee Sa’s ingenious and beautiful Courtyard House is an example of just what can be achieved on a difficult plot.

The challenges typical of this type of plot can be overcome with some creative thinking and the daring to do something a little different.

Build to the Boundaries

One of the first rules of making the most of a narrow plot is to build to the boundaries. Where you might put in a side gate on a standard property project in the country, here in London that just isn’t an option.

Building to the boundaries could mean potential height issues. You will need to check with your local authority to find out how tall you can build, leaving you to make the most of the space you are allowed. Many new builds in London are now limited to a single storey, but again, this doesn’t have to be the end of your dreams; instead of building up, consider building down.

Cellars of days gone by are now, thankfully, gone. In their place, architects are now able to build bright, airy below ground rooms that make the most of the space available. The key to bringing quality to this kind of space is keeping the walls light in colour and texture, and using pale furniture with a limited material palette. Similarly, adding large mirrors reflect light from high windows and scatter it around the room.

Combating Access Problems

The next challenge of building in a tight space is figuring out how you will access the site and build on it. Many projects will require smaller machines and vehicles to get onto the site which can add cost.

You will also need to ask your local council for permission to put skips on the road. If they deny access then it may be worth using ‘wait and load skips’ as an alternative, as you may not need permission for those, and you won’t have to store a skip on site that way.

One last solution may be to make an agreement with a neighbour to borrow their garden while you build, for a negotiated fee. This can be a popular arrangement for both parties as it brings mutual benefits. However, if your project overruns you’ll risk them getting frustrated. So if nothing else, introducing yourself to your new neighbours is always a good idea as it gives you a chance to get them on board with your project.

Design Something Different

Though your site is narrow, there is no reason to assume that a quality design is impossible. Large skylights such as the ones used in the Courtyard House are ideal for bringing in plenty of natural light and simple wood finishings give the house spaces a softer look. Similarly, large doors leading out into a central courtyard creates the illusion of space as well as a private garden for you to enjoy.

Another good idea for creating a feeling of space is to open up the ceiling to follow the line of the roof. The apex may provide at least another metre of space, creating an airy feel. Contrast this with low hanging lights and you get the best of both worlds: a bright space during the day time and a cosy area at night.

Digging down is also an good option and, again, glass ceilings will draw light inward. Slightly darker areas are perfect for bedrooms or TV rooms. Upside down living is becoming much more popular with homeowners who want to be able to appreciate daylight hours for as long as possible. Think of this as an extension of that idea.

Luxury is found in the details and building on smaller plots will naturally concentrate the design down to those fine details. There is no reason that a thin building cannot be light, airy, immaculate and gorgeous inside. Just look at the Courtyard House to see what can be achieved.