Donna Gray saw this project as an opportunity to design the complete contemporary family home for herself and her son Jordan (18) with deep green ideals that married landscape and architecture with interior and furniture design; the complete package. Donna also wanted a studio for her work. The brief for this private house required the radical remodeling and extension of a detached 1950’s villa that includes a new design studio, rear and roof extensions to the original house.
The client, an interior designer, artist and furniture designer, worked in close collaboration with the architect on the project. The house is an exemplar of specification in terms of environmentally benign materials including jute + recycled newspaper insulation, clay plasters, organic paints and locally produced sweet chestnut cladding. Under floor heating is used with exposed screed floors and solar panels.
The landscaping was designed by Donna and is considered to connect internal spaces with those outside, as well as provide a readable segregation between house and design studio. This house separates the work place from the home but links it in such a way as to be easily accessible. However the first floor studio has its own separate staircase and entrance that is more obvious than the more private entrance door to the home itself.
This project was especially interesting because we started with an existing 1950’s dwelling and radically extended it forwards (new studio), upwards (extra floor) and backwards (living room and large balcony). Obviously it is more sustainable to work with an existing structure than it is to completely demolish and start again. However the detailed design process was quite intense and prolonged, not only because of the complete vision that architect and client developed, but because there were so many different details required to ensure a unified look when for example the existing wall types varied so much.
Another major challenge was that the design team (which included the client) were committed to delivering a building utilising sustainable technologies and materials. The question was “is it possible to deliver a high level of specification for the building fabric, as well as its interior and furniture design?” We believe that this project has achieved just that. For example by using locally grown sweet chestnut as cladding and joinery it is promoting the use of small-section coppiced timber normally used for charcoal or fence posts. Even the bath is constructed out of sweet chestnut, proving that this durable beautiful timber is extremely versatile.
‘Homotherm’ recycled cellulose + jute insulation was used for roof and wall. Building papers + vapour checks used in the construction of walls and roofs are made from recycled paper and plastic. The ground floor (including 100mm thick timber pulp insulation) has under-floor heating fuelled by a flat bed solar panel to the main roof. The ground floor power-floated screed finish acts as a heat sink regulating the internal temperature while also housing the under floor heating pipes. These pipes are fueled by the most efficient gas-fired combination boiler you can buy. During Spring, Autumn and much of Winter the solar panel provides the warm water required for under floor heating.
Internally the walls and ceilings are finished in clay plasters. This material absorbs air-borne toxins and helps to allow the walls to breath, along with the use of vapour control layers instead of vapour barriers. Externally the render and timber rain-screen finishes are fully ventilated allowing any build-up of moisture within the wall system to be taken away. All materials are left self-finished to ensure natural weathering, durability and economy. The internal clay plaster for example is self-coloured so there is no need to decorate. The resultant development proves that green ideals can work hand-in-hand with contemporary design and work patterns.