A house that rises above, but still sits within the landscape

JCA Team:
Johnston Cave Associates
Project Design Team:
Rory Duncan, David Rhodes, Claire Smith
Project type:
New Build
Project year: 2020
Photographer: William Pearce & RWA Kitchens
External link: www.williamjpearce.com

At the very end of a no-through lane and on the bank of the River Thames between Marlow and Henley, lies a new Country House that's a weekend retreat for our London based client.

They wanted something that could take advantage of the splendid views, offer recreation facilities and security.

Being right next to the river and sitting on its flood plain, some serious engineering was required to create a solid base for it to sit on.

With shifting clay and once-in-a hundred-year flooding which seems to happen on a regular basis these days, 50 piles had to be driven 10 metres into the ground to create a stable foundation. In addition, the house had to be raised 1.5m off the ground with access for the flood water to pass though and to drain away.

On one hand the raising simply allowed for better views of the river. On the other, it meant that this additional level was included in the Local Authority's overall building height limit and would impact as to what we could build.

Out of adversity, come creative solutions. 

To take advantage of the views, we designed a large stone terrace leading out from the main living area with a low wall and steps down to the garden. We then included a generous ground floor ceiling height and glass doors to provide unrestricted views and to enhance the connection with the river.

It did mean that the roof had to be kept as flat as possible while still retaining a pleasing elevation. To further take full advantage of the glorious views, all the principal rooms were situated on the garden side, leaving just the boot room, utility room and climate-controlled wine room facing the entrance drive. 

Upstairs the idea was repeated which meant some very clever routing of the corridor which unusually was not directly above the one below, necessitating some thought to where the load-bearing walls should be.

Finally we took advantage of the low-profile roof to include a number of light wells that freely throw natural light into to corridor.

In terms of design, our client wanted a classic but modern house. One that would happily sit within the landscape, wouldn't look like a Georgian pastiche and would age gracefully.

Not an easy task in a less capable architectural firm, but we pulled it off according to our client with deep panelled doorways, acres of open space, large windows and beautifully crafted built-in furniture - from bathroom storage to wine room shelving, dressing room cupboards to an extensive kitchen.