The Secret Garden Flat announced as Don’t Move, Improve! Home of the Year


The Secret Garden Flat’ designed by Nic Howett Architect has been named Home of the Year 2023 in the coveted Don’t Move, Improve! Awards.

The expert jury panel have selected this year’s overall winner and seven special prize winners from a shortlist of 15 entries that celebrate the newest and most innovative home improvement projects from across London.

This year’s programme theme of ‘Green Ambitions’ shone through the 2023 submissions, with the shortlist featuring renovations that highlight the importance of improving the sustainable credentials of London’s homes. Other significant themes for 2023 include a focus on wellbeing, with innovative improvements to daylight, better access to nature and inclusion of mood-enhancing colours. Maximising space to provide solutions for compact living is also notable across this year’s projects.

The Secret Garden Flat by Nic Howett Architect has remodelled a small awkward flat, moving the emphasis of living away from a busy main road to the garden behind. Self-building with a palette of simple and modest materials that could be crafted with their own hands, they have added a new bedroom and a secluded garden studio where both can work from home.

Marie-Louise Schembri Sustainability Director at Hilson Moran and 2023 Don’t Move, Improve! judge said: “The Secret Garden is full of surprises. The architects demonstrate how a very high standard of craftmanship can be achieved with a low budget; in this case though the intelligent use of recycled material, and simplified and careful detailing. This beautiful home in a very busy and dense urban part of London feels like an oasis and has consolidated existing neighbourhood and family communities. The transformation process tells a story of vision, perseverance, collaboration and organic growth.”

Nic Howett, architect and homeowner for The Secret Garden Flat said: “We have cultivated it over the decade we have lived here and created an oasis from the busy urban thoroughfare our home is located on; we grow flowers for pollinators (and pleasure) and food for ourselves. Before the build our garden and basement flat were disconnected, now indoors and outdoors interact in a way that makes them inseparable, providing outdoor family living space in the summer, a quiet and serene work space sheltered by neighbouring trees, and immersion in the changing seasons from the comfort and warmth of our bed.”

Over 130 family home extensions were submitted to the Don’t Move, Improve! 2023 competition. The winning projects were chosen by an eminent judging panel, featuring:
Anna Beckett, Associate, Buro Happold
Phil Coffey, Director, Coffey Architects
Marie-Louise Schembri, Sustainability Director, Hilson Moran
Ellie Stathaki, Architecture Editor, Wallpaper* magazine

The 2023 winner in full are:

Home of the Year: The Secret Garden Flat, Nic Howett Architect

Environmental Leadership Prize: Low Energy House, Architecture for London 

Materiality and Craftsmanship Prize: Brückenhaus, R2 Studio Architects

Unique Character Prize: CLT House, Unknown Works

Urban Oasis Prize: Kitchen in the Woods, A Small Studio

Compact Design Prize: Lubetkin Apartment, Studio naama

Best Project Under £100K: Colour Casing, District. Architects

Transformation Prize: Elizabeth Mews, Trewhela Williams 

Winners were announced with a presentation on 24 May 2023 at The London Centre. Stay up to date at a hub for project case studies, design trends, project directories, and more.

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