Edwardian House Extension With Fake Mountain In Sydenham, London

An Edwardian semi-detached house in Sydenham has been radically transformed into a colourful family home topped with a stage set mountain.

Winner of the Unique Character Prize at the Don’t Move, Improve! 2021 awards, the Mountain View project is a direct reaction to the dominant beige and bricky aesthetic of UK architecture.

With a growing push for homes that reflect the colourful nature of home life, there’s a desire to use materials and textures that are a little less humdrum, and Mountain View is a great example of that. With this project, CAN architects have sliced through a standard semi-detached home to rethink what family life could look like.

From the ruined wall effect to the chequerboard bathroom with an orange ceiling, an intersection of materials, shapes and colours create a highly textural and tactile living space in this two-storey London property.

Mountain View takes its design cues from numerous pop culture sources. The fake mountain, made of foamed aluminium, makes a nod to the Matterhorn Bobsleds ride at Disneyland.

Owner and architect, Mat Barnes of CAN, said: ‘The material palette of the art gallery has leeched into the idea of what a home should be and I find that bizarre. There is this idea that you add art to the walls to bring out the character. Why can’t the architecture provide the character?’

mountain view, house extension by can architects


For the £230,000 project, a large chunk of the money was focused on opening up the space. The exposed structure and finishes, which amplifies the differences in solid and void, negates the need for additional wall and ceiling coverings.

Where sections of the rear walls remain, it creates a soft partition between the kitchen and dining area, and the new lounge space which leads onto the garden.

The floor level of the back half of the house was lowered by 1m to better connect the new open plan space to the garden, which creates a wonderful extended view from the hallway to the rear of the house.

The existing fabric of the property has been thermally upgraded throughout, while built-in furniture reduces cost and increases future flexibility. Impressively, the kitchen and the exterior lintel facings are made from recycled chopping boards and milk bottle tops.

mountain view, house extension by can architects, london house renovation

Jim Stephenson

In this space there are also structural columns painted red, mosaic-tiled stairs emblazoned with the words ‘waste not want not’, and a mint green and orange colour combination on the staircase.

The landing is incredibly light and airy with white walls, wooden floorboards and a glazed ceiling, while a simple reconfiguration of the first floor has provided an additional bedroom.

mountain view, house extension by can architects, london house renovation

Jim Stephenson

mountain view, house extension by can architects, london house renovation

Jim Stephenson

The dark living room is quite a marked departure from the visual mix throughout the house. With midnight blue walls and architectural mouldings in the same colour, yet pared-back accessories and furnishings, this lounge is the perfect quiet retreat.

Having scooped the Unique Character Prize for Don’t Move, Improve! 2021, Mat’s extension and renovation of his family home impressed the judges immensely.

‘For some reason he pulled it off and I wonder whether that is because of the barrage of ideas. It hung together somehow, and I can’t put my finger on how,’ said Tom Foxall, head of region for London and South East at Historic England.

mountain view, house extension by can architects, london house renovation

Jim Stephenson

Melissa Dowler, director of Bell Phillips Architects, added: ‘It’s bonkers; like a complete stream of consciousness. But I love the project.’

Karen Stylianides, editor of Grand Designs magazine, praised the ‘huge amount of financial bravery’ with this project, while Amin Taha, architect and director of Groupwork, said: ‘He’s thrown everything into his personal passions. He’s laid it bare for us and I quite like that.’

Mountain View: project fact file


  • Before: 130sqm
  • After: 150sqm
  • Area added: 20sqm
  • Existing area refurbished: 130sqm


      • Consultation fees: £4,000
      • Construction: £215,000
      • Fixtures and fittings: £11,000
      • Total: £230,000 (including VAT)

        Project team:

        • Architect: CAN
        • Structural Engineer: Hardman Structural Engineers
        • Contractor: Catalin London Ltd.
          mountain view, house extension by can architects, london house renovation

          Jim Stephenson

          The Don’t Move, Improve! 2021 awards was open to any home improvement project across London’s 33 boroughs that was completed in the last two years. All nine finalists showcased that through creativity, our homes can truly express who we are and demonstrate how a well-designed home can improve quality of life. The overall winner of Don’t Move. Improve! 2021 went to The House Recast designed by Studio Ben Allen.

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