Contemporary Architecture in St Leonards


This blog post is about the contemporary architecture near where I live in St Leonards.  I should be clear that none of the buildings shown were designed by Living Space Architects, although I must admit I wish I had designed some of them myself as they are beautiful.  Where I can I have credited the architect who designed the buildings, but if you know a bit more please do let me know and I will add a further credit.

All photographs were taken by me from the street.

This Sunday was a beautiful sunny day and I was lucky enough to have an hour or two to wander around St Leonard’s in Exeter taking photos.  St Leonards has quite a bit of contemporary architecture – something that attracted us to the area when we moved to Exeter.  People are often surprised that contemporary buildings are given planning permission in Conservation Areas, but to me the contrast between a beautiful Georgian or Victorian building and a piece of good quality contemporary architecture makes places vibrant and interesting.  

Contemporary house on St Leonards Rd Exeter










A good example of a simple contemporary house that works extremely well in its context can be found on St Leonard’s Rd. The simple lines of the white render and Zinc roof work well set against the neighbouring, more traditional white rendered houses.

Contemporary House on Wonford Rd, Exeter










This gorgeous house by the architect David Sheppard takes that concept further; at first glance it is a white rendered box, but as you move closer and past the building you notice the clever use of white-washed larch cladding and exceptional detailing of elements such as windows and doors.

An important aspect of the design of these modern buildings is scale, by ensuring that the buildings reflect the scale of the surrounding street scape the architects have enabled them to sit effortlessly and gracefully amongst their older neighbours without causing a fuss.

Contemporary House Matford Rd Exeter











My final choice is a house by Harrison Sutton Architects on Matford Lane in St Leonard’s. The house is situated next to the Old Rectory, a lovely old stone building that stands up to the Rd. The new house stands proudly alongside with its curved stair tower animating the front facade.  The result when viewed alongside the neighbouring Victorian buildings is a successful link between the white rendered semis and the older rectory.


New Year – New Home?

With the news full of uncertainty in the financial markets many of us are choosing to stay put rather than sell our houses and move, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make the most of what we have and there are plenty of projects within all budgets that could make a real difference to your home without having to up sticks and move.  By making changes and improvements to your home not only can it make your property feel like new but it will also add value once the market improves again.

Adding and Extension

Adding extra floor area is a guaranteed way of making your home feel like new.

Not only is finance more difficult to find but moving home costs a fair bit of money too with stamp duty on a £500,000 home amounting to £20,000.  It’s these factors that have made staying where you are and extending a really good option.

“It’s true that it can be more difficult to make a big profit now on any work that you do to your home, but you will more than likely get back what you spend” says Kirsty Curnow Bayley at Living Space Architects. “In some cases, especially with homes at the top end of the market you can create a good extension for the same price as moving”.

Rear and Side Extensions


This is the most popular type of extension, often opening up to the garden at the rear of the property with the kitchen diner leading onto the garden.  Families are looking for space where they can all be together that connects better with the garden and this will definitely add value to your home.  Expect to pay in the region of £1500- £2000 per square metre including fit out.  Consider employing an architect for the project, although it will add around 10-15% to your project the extra spend is definitely worth while; architects are space planning experts and will make sure you get value for your money.  They will also help you negotiate the planning maze and can manage building contractors to help ensure a project is on time and within budget.

Loft Conversions

A loft conversion will cost in the region of £40,000 and is a great way to get another bedroom and can be a good option if your family is expanding but you don’t want to move.  You may not need planning permission for a loft conversion although it is important to check that your house still has it’s permitted development rights before you start work.  Always contact your local planning authority to check or speak to an architect who will be able  confirm how big your extension can be to comply.


Adding a basement is one of the best options if your priority is to gain extra space as you can effectivly gain a whole extra floor.  You can draw in extra light by adding a lightwell and extending into your back garden.  Compared to an extension at ground level a basement is a more expensive option with costs of up to £3000 per square metre and can be disruptive.  Make sure you employ a good architect before you start to make sure your basement is as light and airy as possible.

Sun room


The traditional upvc conservatory extension is a bit of a quick fix solution and many people regret not having considered other options.

Again a small conservatory may not need planning permission and it is worth checking before you start.

When planning your sun room think about its orientation – south facing sun rooms are great but you do need to consider how to avoid overheating.  You can create a sun room with a solid roof and rooflights to help control temperatures whilst still letting in light.  Large roof overhangs can provide solar shading and some protection from summer showers.

Sliding folding doors are now extremely popular but large slim framed aluminium sliding doors are becoming more popluar as they give the best visual connection with the garden and look a lot more stylish.

Time to retreat to Dartmoor

From time to time we all feel the need to escape, to get away from the pressures and information overload that is now so much our modern lives with a chance to relax and recharge.  For many the answer is a summer holiday somewhere hot, but there is an alternative on offer right on our doorstep.

 Bala Brook Retreat Centre near South Brent offers visitors the opportunity for quiet reflection, and with little mobile phone reception, it really is possible to escape from the barrage of media advertising, endless stream of emails.

On arriving at the centre you are struck by a sense of peaceful calm and tranquillity, not surprising for a site that is dedicated to the practice of meditation and contemplation. Tucked into the valley on the edge of Dartmoor, ‘Bala’ is the name of the Brook that pours down the edge of the property into the Avon, in Celtic it just means stream of water but the Sanskrit term ‘bala’ refers to the power that helps us generate spiritual energy.

Previously the home of the Golden Buddah Centre Bala is now owned by the Spanda Trust who also own Harbour House in the Centre of Kingsbridge. The Trust is a charitable foundation dedicated to preservation of nature, human healing and education by Yoga, meditation and appreciation of nature – something that sits well with the Retreats location within Dartmoor National Park.

The centre has proved extremely popular and visitors range from groups of Buddhist monks to artists and city workers wanting a break.  Although the Centre was extremely popular the existing accommodation wasn’t designed to work as a retreat – originally built as a family home and extended bit by bit over the years, it was difficult to manage and impractical to use, feedback from visitors suggested that changes should be made.

Living Space Architects who are based in Exeter were appointed to work with the Trust to create an annex to the centre to replace the existing stable block, which was being used as extra bedrooms when the centre was busy.

The new building has a real sense of place sitting well in the landscape amongst the mature oak trees, with its timber cladding a reclaimed slate roof. The new art studio, which is also used for yoga is glazed around 3 sides with well insulated glazing panels,  and allows guests to paint or meditate looking out onto the brook and beautiful wild flower garden.

 “We created a new building with a stunning studio space and moved the manager’s office out of the existing house allowing guests privacy and quiet (some of the retreats are silent for their duration).  It also provides additional space when the centre is busy.” said Kirsty Curnow Bayley, architect for the new building.

The timber frame is packed full with insulation and solar panels have been installed on the roof, which along with a wood burning stove provide the heating required.  It was always the intention of the Trust to keep the energy usage of the building to a minimum, and the position of the building near to the Brook means that in the future power could also be produced using a small scale hydro-electric generator.

One of the most important parts of the brief was to create a flexible building, which could change over time if required. The structural system with large timber trusses allows partition walls to be moved in the future if the needs and space requirements of the centre change.

“Buildings need to be adaptable to meet future needs and requirements.  Constructing new buildings uses a huge amount of energy and it seems only right that we should consider how they can be more easily ‘recycled’ and not just demolished and re-built” says Kirsty

A back gate leads out through the woods along the brook and onto the wide open Moor.  An exhilarating walk Northwards brings walkers to Princetown in the centre of Dartmoor. Or another walk westwards leads to the famous ancient oaks at Piles Wood alongside the exquisite river Erme.

So if you crave an escape from the stresses and strains of the day or are looking for a way of feeding the soul, Bala Brook Retreat Centre offers both within the wonderful surroundings of the Dartmoor landscape.



Today we’re enjoying looking at barns in the office, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that some of the barns we like had even been listed.  Pictures are of a beautiful barn in Dunsford near one of our new projects and a gorgeous house in Galway by Richard Murphy Architects.