It's not often that a tree is at the centre of an architectural commission, especially when that commission involves a black modern house that’s to serve as a studio and family space. The tree in question is a mature Lebanese cedar at the bottom of a large, leafy south London garden. Design by Tikari Works, a studio bringing together designers, makers and architects, wraps a black-faced, glazed structure around the tree, its roof seeming to form part of the natural canopy. This is the black modern house the owners wanted, a sanctuary celebrating the greenery.


Respect for nature is at the core of this unique piece of design. That meant construction of the black modern house around a tree required precision and specialist materials. The Lebanese cedar at the centre of it all had to remain undisturbed throughout the construction process which threw up its own challenges. Foundations were mini-piled and use a floating ring beam to protect the tree’s roots.

Materials were always going to be complex, while also needing to express the honesty that designers of the black modern house wanted. A grid of black-stained engineered timber forms the roof, screened outside by curved black steel cladding, which nicely off-sets the green of the tree leaves. Slender steel columns - Tikari Works naturally calls them “a forest” - support the roof, so that it seems to hover over the structure. Curved glass was specially commissioned. The effect is to blend the interior of the cosy black modern house with the exterior.

The desired structural honesty is everywhere in this small scale black modern house. Nothing is concealed, in keeping with the setting and the design philosophy. Inside, black timber beams to the ceiling are left exposed, as is the masonry used to construct an acoustic boundary wall, behind an open terrace that's ideal for morning coffee.

Interior of the garden black modern house features bespoke Tikari Works kitchen and a terrazzo sink pedestal. An ingenious moveable and foldable storage unit on wheels is another custom piece for the black modern house around a tree. The idea is that the internal space is as flexible as the clients want it to be, whether it’s to be for working, playing or just kicking back. Materials are left unfinished, deliberately inviting touch.

End result is a black modern house that - inside and out - is a piece of total design. "Our work is underpinned,” say Takari Works, "by a desire to find design solutions that are simultaneously pragmatic, sustainable, and poetic.” If poetry isn’t invoked often in building design, perhaps it should be. And A Room Around A Tree is a great place to start.

Up next, Swiss minimalism at its finest.