New wings to make a house fly

JCA Team:
Nicholas Johnston, Peter Cave, Chris Lawler
Project Design Team:
Johnston Cave Associates

It was the location and views that sold our clients on their Gloucestershire house back in the 1980’s, rather than the house itself and certainly not the garden – of which there was little to speak of.

As not just keen gardeners, but trained gardeners, the owners had big plans, plans that also required connecting the garden with the house.

That’s where Johnston Cave Associates came in with a plan for what was essentially a four-square house, that not only boldly connected the two, but also one that made the house far more balanced, liveable and more in keeping with a house of its stature.

The answer was to create two new useful wings.

Each could contain a number of living and family rooms while one could have a grand garden room attached. Both would look out onto a very useful terrance. The garden room was also carefully sited to make the most of the views.

There was then the matter of crafting some careful connecting spaces, some additional bathrooms in the house and refurbishing of halls and staircases – all in keeping with the Queen Anne period of the main house.

Outside we created a large ornamental pond and crafted some gates - modelled on the one in Luxmoore’s garden at Eton College, then walls and pillars to make sure our client had the privacy they were after.

With our clients’ green fingers, it wasn’t long before anyone would struggle to tell the old from the new as the new garden and planting beautifully enveloped the structures.

Part of that authenticity when blending new and old is to fully understand the existing proportions, materials and details. Without that, many architects lacking the combined 250 years of working on old buildings that JCA has, would slightly miss the solidity, scale and elegance required to seamlessly blend the two together. It’s not a matter of pastiche, but of sympathetic understanding of why it needs to be that way.

Not long after we finished the project, our delighted client called us back to build a dovecote to commemorate the millennium as a centrepiece of their now wonderful garden. Like the garden gates, it is a reference to Eton, in this case the one on the tower of Eton College chapel, while the windows are a nod to the Gothic Cottage at Stourhead in Wiltshire.

It really doesn’t matter where your architectural references come from, as long as there’s a thorough understanding of what you are building. Only then can it truly fly.