C·Top Design

Catriona Burns


Image number 15 of the current section of Catriona Burns in Cosentino UK
“I work very closely with my clients, listening to them and helping them to clearly define their priorities for the proposed building work.”

Architect Catriona Burns graduated from the Mackintosh School of Architecture in Glasgow in 2000 with a first-class honours degree. Before she established her own studio in London in 2013, she worked for different architecture offices such as De Blacam and Meagher Architects in Dublin, as part of the team who delivered the new Cork Institute of Technology campus, Studio 54 Architects in London on a variety of project, including housing regeneration schemes in North London and educational facilities in York. Elder and Cannon in Glasgow, where she learned her commitment to creating high quality architecture.

Cultures with different approaches

I was lucky enough to work in a variety of different European cities during the early part of my career, including Paris, Dublin, and Florence. These experiences exposed me to cultures with different approaches to defining spaces. This helped broaden my own sense of how to design and use materials successfully.

Creating high quality architecture

I worked for Elder and Cannon in Glasgow during my year out in architecture. I think if you are lucky enough to have a positive formative experience of working in a practice like this one, which was very committed to creating high quality architecture, it stays with you throughout your career. We worked hard but it was also great fun!

A bold use of colour can work well

I often find it difficult to employ colours in my projects, and I know a lot of other architects who also find it a struggle. It’s a skill I am still working on! However, a bold use of colour can work well in the right space to provide a more distinctive response. A combination of natural veneers and crimson red panels were used in a project I completed in Crouch End to contrast against the intensive green garden beyond. The project went on to win Best Interior at the 2019 ‘Don’t Move, Improve!’ awards.

Álvaro Siza

I always find inspiration and motivation by returning to projects designed by Siza, particularly some of his early private house commissions. You can often trace the heritage of the architectural principles employed in his larger public works in those initial projects.
Crouch End House
Crouch End House

Crouch End House- Photo: Adelina Iliev

Spaces that are defined by the client's needs, ambitions, and individual tastes

I work very closely with my clients, listening to them and helping them to clearly define their priorities for the proposed building work. However, some clients do approach you based on the aesthetics seen in a previous published project. That can be gratifying, but we always like to start a design from first principals, to ensure it’s a best fit for the client.

A new relationship with our homes

Covid and being in lockdown made us rethink our relationship with them. Not only did it expose the inequality of access to external space, but it highlighted the need for homes to have flexible living accommodation, which can respond successfully to the different needs of the occupiers.

The timber joinery

I have always enjoyed detailing timber joinery for a project if the opportunity arises!

We must become better at retrofitting spaces

An increasing awareness and understanding of the impact the construction industry has on climate change makes it more important than ever to specify recycled, sustainably sourced materials that can also be recycled themselves in the future. These must be correctly installed to ensure a long-life expectancy with minimal maintenance required. We must ensure buildings are properly constructed, insulated, and ventilated to minimize reliance of fossil fuels for heating and cooling. We are all on a steep learning curve of how to deliver buildings in a more sustainable way.


A Dekton Natura work surface was used in the kitchen in one of my projects in North London. The owners bought a Victorian terrace house that had been rented to students for the previous 25 years, which was probably the last time the place had been decorated! Along with extensive renovations throughout, the kitchen layout was reconfigured with the chimney breast opened up to accommodate a new range cooker. A continuous 6 metre work surface was formed down one edge of the space, with the reflective Dekton slabs contrasting with low-level walnut veneer base units. The Natura finish provides a highly durable and scratch resistant work surface with the subtle grey veined textures complimenting the large format stone floor tiles.

New University building in York

I was project architect for this building, situated close to the city walls and York Minster. It was very satisfying, and daunting, building something contemporary in the environs of such a historically important city.

No two projects are the same

One of the projects I was running in Dublin was for the renovation of a 12th century castle which presented its own unique set of challenges! I have since worked on several listed properties. Conservation work is something I am keen to develop in the future, having completed an RIBA course in conservation architecture last year.

No two projects are the same, particularly in domestic work where the response is so personal to the client. The key to a successful outcome is forming a strong collaborative relationship with the client and working closely with suppliers and contractors to deliver the required quality.

Something in Scotland

I’d love to build something there, ideally my own house near a Scottish loch to enjoy early morning swims!

New challenges

I am preparing bespoke furniture designs for clients whose house we originally refurbished several years ago, so that’s fun to revisit a previous project!

In addition to private practice, I am also a design tutor at The University of Kent. I enjoy working closely with students to help them to develop an understanding of the process involved in creating good design, and to discuss the broader social issues associated with architecture and urban planning.
Image number 26 of the current section of Catriona Burns in Cosentino UK
Image number 27 of the current section of Catriona Burns in Cosentino UK
Image number 28 of the current section of Catriona Burns in Cosentino UK
Image number 29 of the current section of Catriona Burns in Cosentino UK


The client's brief was to extend her historic coach house to create a studio space which could be accessed independently from the main house. An entrance at the upper level of the studio was formed with leather lined steps leading down to the main workspace below. Three large roof lights provide daylight into the depth of the plan and an opening glazed window overlooks the adjacent courtyard. High level wall units were designed for the artist's tools and materials and a small kitchen area is included within the rear accommodation which connects back to the existing property. Black oak flooring and exposed timber roof structures give the studio a distinctive identity.

My top ten favorite buildings or design pieces

1. Muuratsalo Experimental House, Finland - Alvar Aalto (1954)

2. Classic Anglepoise lamp - George Carwardine (1934)

3. Piazza del Campo, Sienna (Europe’s greatest medieval square!)

4. Lounge chair and ottoman - Charles and Ray Eames (1956)

5. Fisher House, Pennsylvania - Louis Kahn (1967)

6. The Burrell Collection, Glasgow - Gasson, Anderson and Meunie (1983)

7. Leça Swimming Pools, Portugal - Álvaro Siza (1966)

8. Neues Museum, Berlin - David Chipperfield Architects (2009)

9. Grand Central Terminal, NYC - Reed and Stem + Warren and Wetmore (1913)

10. Berkeley Library, Trinity College, Dublin – ABK (1967)
“The impact the construction industry has on climate change makes it more important than ever to specify recycled and sustainably sourced materials.”
Catriona Burns

Catriona Burns


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