A Disneyland Roller Coaster Is One of the Many Inspirations in This Surreal Renovation

Morgan Goldberg
·4 min read
The peak in all its glory.
The peak in all its glory.
Jim Stephenson

Instead of riffing on famous structures and classic designs, architect Mat Barnes used a bevy of pop culture references to inform the recent remodel of his suburban London house. The CAN founder looked to amusement parks, movies, and museums for inspiration as he completely gutted the dilapidated Edwardian and transformed it into a colorful, whimsical family home. “It’s a collection of random ideas, rather than a singular approach,” he explains.

Though Mat maintained the traditional brick façade, his eccentric back extension provides a hypermodern contrast to the building’s history with a mountain-shaped parapet made of foamed aluminum. Enchanted by the construction of Disneyland’s Matterhorn Bobsleds ride, Mat conceived of this cartoonish roof feature to set the tone for the playful project.

The old garden was overgrown and neglected.
The old garden was overgrown and neglected.

Massive glass sliding doors lead from the garden into the quirky addition, where royal blue trusses and Douglas fir plywood ceilings meet checkerboard tile and a burnt orange sofa. Two square skylights usher in sunshine from above, offering extra illumination to the sitting area that doubles as a playroom for Mat’s young children.

Welsh brand Smile Plastics is behind the terrazzo-like recycled surfaces in the kitchen.
Welsh brand Smile Plastics is behind the terrazzo-like recycled surfaces in the kitchen.
Jim Stephenson
Mat preserved the original, ornate balustrade and updated it with a coat of rich mint.
Mat preserved the original, ornate balustrade and updated it with a coat of rich mint.
Jim Stephenson

As a nod to a derelict apartment scene in the film Trainspotting, a partially demolished wall demarcates the original exterior boundary and serves as an entry to the kitchen. It is here that multiple themes emerge. A continuation of the topography motif can be seen in cavelike textured concrete and a steel enamel dining table that resembles rippling water, while encaustic marker tiles and structural columns painted red and white to mimic ranging rods introduce the concept of surveying the landscape.

To create a graphic system of cabinetry and countertops, Mat employed a reconstituted plastic crafted from recycled chopping boards and milk bottle tops. A permanent reminder of the material’s sustainability, as well as Mat’s own cooking mantra, is spelled out on the steps: “Waste Not Want Not,” it reads. “It’s a phrase that my grandmother always used to say in the kitchen, like nonstop, so it’s personal,” he reveals.

The living room is a playful take on a museum.
The living room is a playful take on a museum.
Jim Stephenson
"I used to work at McDonald’s when I was younger for about four years," Mat divulges.
"I used to work at McDonald’s when I was younger for about four years," Mat divulges.
Jim Stephenson

The vivid, open space is juxtaposed with a moody, monochromatic living room next door. Cloaked in indigo, the cozy den is intended for evenings watching television and relaxing. Its elaborate plaster wall embellishments and ornate fireplace, however, are an homage to Sir John Soane's Museum. “It’s this crazy old house formerly owned by an 1800s architect. He collected loads of architectural fragments from across the world and they’re all crammed into this amazing place,” Mat describes. “This room is a piss-take on that.”

"It was in a pretty derelict state," Mat remembers. "The boiler didn’t work, so we didn’t have any heating, and we only had one hot tap. It was a pretty dire situation."
"It was in a pretty derelict state," Mat remembers. "The boiler didn’t work, so we didn’t have any heating, and we only had one hot tap. It was a pretty dire situation."
"We put in a skylight so it feels like a gallery," details Mat.
"We put in a skylight so it feels like a gallery," details Mat.
Jim Stephenson

Up the pistachio green– and cheddar cheese–hued staircase, the decor becomes more mellow. White walls display select artworks, natural wood floors are exposed, and original beams are covered in pastels. “When you go to bed or when you’re waking up on a lazy Sunday morning, you want it to be calm,” reasons Mat.

Mat's daughter perched on a plush foam window seat.
Mat's daughter perched on a plush foam window seat.
Jim Stephenson
"When we were uncovering the existing elements in the house, we came across the original fireplaces and they all had checkerboard tiles as a hearth," Mat says of the impetus for the recurring pattern.
"When we were uncovering the existing elements in the house, we came across the original fireplaces and they all had checkerboard tiles as a hearth," Mat says of the impetus for the recurring pattern.
Jim Stephenson

The only exception is the bathroom, which feels like an extension of the bold lower level. A bright, fiery ceiling mingles with more checkerboard tile and a tub with exposed metal framework. The zippy lavatory is the only sensible companion to the bubbly funhouse that is Mat’s home.

At night, the family retreats to the dramatic living room to decompress.
At night, the family retreats to the dramatic living room to decompress.
Jim Stephenson
The vibrant bathroom matches the downstairs energy.
The vibrant bathroom matches the downstairs energy.
Jim Stephenson
Mat and his family enjoy the addition.
Mat and his family enjoy the addition.
Jim Stephenson

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest