Text description provided by the architects. The self-build project is on a 27-acre farm in South-West Herefordshire, located up an old drovers’ track and surrounded by overgrown hedgerows and trees. It was initially commissioned as a low-impact treehouse, but after surveying the site it was deemed inappropriate to support a structure from any trees.
Instead, the house reinterprets the experience of living within the tree canopies by building as close as possible to them, without felling or damaging their roots. This ambition combined with the functional aspect of the drovers’ track, led to the house being lifted up on legs, allowing sheep to be herded underneath and nature to thrive and grow around the structure; as well as enabling distant views of the Black Mountains. The proportion and massing were dictated by the width of the track, and the height and spacing of trees. The tree canopies also play a critical role in concealing the building which was a prerequisite for obtaining planning.
A prefabricated timber panel construction was used and raised on oak legs to have a minimum 2m headroom below. It squeezes between the trees with branches touching the building walls, making it feel like it has grown in tandem with its surroundings. Steel feet connect the oak legs below ground to screw pile foundations, allowing the building to sit enchantingly close to the trees without the need for excavation or concrete.
The narrow building is accessed via an elongated staircase prompting an unhurried approach. Ancillary spaces are efficiently arranged into less than half the plan with a galley kitchen, bathroom, and mezzanine sleeping area above. This gives way to a double-height living area, offering spatial generosity within the small building, with a large opening looking south over sheep fields to the landscape beyond.
Two folding windows facing East and West create framed painting-like views, allowing inhabitants to come in close contact with the trees. Smaller proportioned windows are placed within the cooking, washing, and sleeping areas to provide intimate framed views and ventilation. Locally sourced green oak columns, rough sawn larch cladding, oak windows, reclaimed floorboards, and reclaimed insulation form the main build. Waste was minimized throughout by creating doors and terrace decking from surplus oak offcuts and larch cladding.
The oak stilts are bolted together with bespoke flitch plates for structural integrity from the strong winds, but also for ease of disassembly. It was intended that the oak structure, along with the screw pile foundations, be easily removable and leave a minimal trace after their lifetime. With regards to services, the house is connected to the farm’s 20 solar panels, providing electricity, with a natural spring providing the water supply.