A 1970's house gets a magnificent makeover

Project Design Team:
Rory Duncan
Sarah Homer
Tom Ashton
Project type:
Refurbisment and renovation
Project year: 2020
Photographer: William Pearce
External link: www.williamjpearce.com

Our client decided their 1970's house was in dire need of refurbishment, but until we started looking hard at the possibilities, no one realised how dire.

It turned out that the developer/builder had used every dubious means of construction that disgraced the 70's.

How the building remained standing was anyone's guess.

Although the obvious answer was to demolish and start again, we were sensitive that our client had raised a family there and had understandably formed strong sentimental attachments. We looked to a practical and creative option that kept much of the existing building as well as the spirit of the place.

Our solution was to dress the house with a full height second brick skin, enhanced with modern insulation in the newly created cavity behind. Not only was it now structurally sound, it was also well insulated and the new bricks looked so much better than the original.

We were able to exploit the awkward level changes across the site and within the house to create what our client calls a 'book room'; a kind of intimate space, lined with book shelves and doubling as a media room. But rather than close it off and hide it away, we added pairs of doors opening into to the main hall and with a ledge 'seat' and some steps. That way it could be a cosy private space, or, open up to enjoy views into the garden as part of the main house.

An old dairy building behind provided a great opportunity to create more useful space, but how? The answer was to connect the two buildings with a kind of collegiate cloister enclosing a courtyard garden. We built it with generous and comfortable dimensions with views over the courtyard. We then made it more than a simple corridor, by incorporating a downstairs loo and a utility room with concealed services spaces behind. The full length barn-like dairy building was extended to become an impressive family kitchen, dining area and additional sitting room. We added full height windows at the end and along both sides to bring in masses of light as well as to provide views overlooking the garden in all directions. A further extension along the boundary, created privacy and shelter for a more open courtyard garden and gave space for a pantry and a further room that could become an additional study or home gym.

Incorporating the existing barn into the house created unexpected and wonderful courtyard garden spaces between the buildings and we made sure there were plenty of views over and through them from all areas.

Moving the kitchen family room to the barn, created opportunities for a large formal reception area, a study, laundry room and a good sized entrance hall and stair leading up to two floors of bedrooms and bathrooms above.

Demonstrating that it's the often overlooked details that count, our client said that the doors and cloister connection were her favourite bits of the project.

A house that our client always felt was the ugly duckling of the village, now sits happily in its historic and rural setting.

It shows that no matter how challenging a project may appear, with some inspired architecture it's possible to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.