Extending a small family home with simple techniques and impressive results

This project is the perfect example of a house that really has become a home.

Jill and James McDowell came to us wanting to give their property in Earl Richards a contemporary revamp. Having been in the family for years, they were not prepared to part ways with their wonderful house, but realised it was time for it to be modernised and opened up to make best use of space and the garden- especially with grandchildren now scurrying around.

They wanted to extend the kitchen and link the dining area to the garden, opening up the inside and creating more space and light. As the property was relatively small, we were able to use fairly simple and low-cost techniques to meet these needs in an innovative and attractive way.

“It was great, as we could apply ideas usually used on larger projects and adapt them to this smaller design” said Kirsty Curnow-Bayley, a Living Space Architect who worked on the project.  “We used simple techniques to create really interesting spaces”.


Below you can see the finished work: seamless access to the garden, great views and a pleasant, bright kitchen space within. Jill and James were delighted with the results.


Feeling the chill? How we went about insulating a heritage home

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One thing about beautiful, historic houses is that they can often be really, really cold.

As Brits, we are no strangers to wacking on the fire and arming ourselves with a fluffy socks and a hot water bottle, but what happens when this simply isn’t enough?


When our client came to us with a brief to create a sustainable and well-insulated home in Broadhembury, we stepped up to the challenge.

They were concerned that it wouldn’t be possible to insulate the existing solid cob and stone walls, which were a large part of the property’s character and charm.

The property wasn’t listed so there was a bit of flexibility on altering the existing fabric, and with our experience of improving the energy performance of existing buildings and working with listed and historic properties, we were well placed to be able to advise.

This time however we wanted to take things a step further. How could we integrate technology usually used when designing new low energy homes on a historic solid wall building?


The emphasis was on creating a living breathing house with natural materials to improve the indoor air quality and create a natural, healthy home.

We suggested bringing on board Ann-Marie Fallon, a certified Passivhaus designer, to model the existing house using PHPP software. This is a time consuming business and involves the input of a lot of data to model the way the house performs now and how it would change following adaptations such as the addition of insulation.

This enabled us to investigate how we could insulate the property and best improve on its energy performance through the type of insulation, its position (internal or external) and thickness. This enabled us to also ensure that no condensation would occur, which is a common concern when insulating solid walls.

The existing walls were a real challenge being constructed of cob at low level and solid stone at first floor. The lower level walls of the house were constructed of cob, and this a lack of data in this area with regards to thermal capacity, we used the data to establish a model and predict how the house would behave.


Our client was also keen to use triple glazing, and we agreed that it did offer worthy benefits for this project, although came at a higher price. We decided to use triple glazing on the north facing link corridor and high performance double glazing throughout the rest of the house. Drafts in older houses are one of the biggest issues for improving energy efficiency, so replacing the windows made a significant difference to the performance of the house.

For the walls, breathable wood fibre insulation was used internally on the first floor where there was a mixture of cod and stone.  This had to be extended along the internal partition walls to prevent thermal bridging and condensation.  Part of the existing house was built in the 1970’s and had a cavity wall construction.  Here we used the wood fibre insulation externally.

The existing cement render was removed from all walls to enable them to breathe and cork insulating lime render used as the external finish to the older parts of the house, with a more standard lime render in other areas. Additionally, a new heating system was installed throughout powered by a wood pellet boiler and new underfloor heating laid in the new extension.

The design of the extension used an oak frame supplied by Carpenter Oak, which was wrapped in an airtight membrane and rendered externally.  This gave a stunning interior space for the kitchen dining room and beautiful spaces where the ‘old meets new’ in the north facing corridor.


So if anyone tells you that an old house can’t be made warm and cosy, while retaining its historical charm and sustainable vision then send them our way!

Restoration of Listed Medieval Hall House, Dartmoor

Today saw the completion of one of our favourite ever projects – the restoration of Staddon House in Walkhampton on the edge of Dartmoor National Park.  Our clients, Sue & Geoff Edwards, bought Staddons back in 2014, and after a year negotiating planning consent and 14 months on site the building is now unrecognisable.

When they bought Staddons, Sue & Geoff understood they had taken on a challenge.  Having previously restored a house in Cornwall and another in rural Italy, they weren’t under any illusion about the work that would be involved.  What they didn’t realise however was that Staddons had much more waiting to be uncovered beneath it’s damp carpets and concrete rendered walls.

On his first visit to the site, Keith McKay the Conservation officer from Dartmoor National Park realised the building might be more than it first appeared.  What everyone had assumed was just another Dartmoor Longhouse could actually be something else entirely.  As a result the planning process had to be paused whilst archeologists were brought in to help piece together Staddon’s long and varied history and shed some light on how the building had been used.

A stunning Grand Medieval fireplace was uncovered behind the small victorian hearth, lumps of granite on the fireplace in the bedroom were confirmed as Medieval candle sconces.  The most exciting news was the uncovering of a medieval beam in the roof  space tarred with soot.  From all this information it was clear that Staddons had once been a much higher status home and was likely much older than it first appeared.  Possibly a high status Medieval Hall House with two storey chamber at one end – perhaps one of the first houses in the village.

The photos attached to this post show how the team at RM builders have brought this fabulous building back to life with the help of the consultants and the passion of the clients.  A real team effort from all has lead to a successful result and a studding home.

Thanks to everyone from RM Builders in Tavistock, Rawlings joinery, DB Heating, D Farnham electrical, Devon Stone and Amos lighting for helping us with this amazing project.  (Sorry if we missed you off list – we owe you a drink!)

Living Space Architects are based in Exeter, Devon and are specialists in building Conservation and the refurbishment and extension of Listed and Historic buildings.  We enjoy working in a Modern Rustic style and introducing new contemporary elements into a historic setting.  We work across the south west on refurbishment and restoration projects with a particular expertise working on projects in Dartmoor National Park, Teignbridge, East Devon, Mid Devon, West Devon and Somerset.

An English take on a German design: Stoke Poges

Our client came to us with the brief of creating a house with a similar feel to the award-winning German Huf Haus design.

Creeping into the UK market, these timber and glass houses are generally two-storeys high with pitched roof separated at the gable. Typical features include terraces, canopies, roof lights and large windows…we were excited to get started!

The interior is often a very open design with double-height spaces, galleries, high ceilings, open dining, living and kitchen rooms, and connected yet private bedrooms. The design aims to maximise the sunlight and bring the natural world directly into the living space.

Big open spaces and the natural light appealed to our client, but they wanted to have a little more privacy and a more ‘homely’ feel than the original German design.

Our design

For the ground floor, we designed a bright, open living dining and kitchen space, capturing sunlight from the top of the roof and big sliding windows and connecting to a glazed dining area..

The bedrooms were placed in the first floor with en-suites and connections to a large terrace.

We decided to use a innovative construction for our new building, settling on Structural Insulated Panels (SIP) from Kingspan TEK. These fit into the Huf House feel as were made of wood and had an invisible structure which allowed interior design freedom. They are also prefabricated which shortens construction time on site meaning that there is minimal on-site waste and internal work can begin earlier. The panels have a thinner construction than usual insulation and high energy efficiency.

To incorporate the look of an English house while maintaining the dark-light contrast feature of a typical Huf Haus, we supplemented a brick wall on the outside ground floor and white walls above.

 

Published in Real Homes Magazine

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Our beautiful house extension and refurbishment project in Grey Wings, Cornwall has been featured in the ‘Design Guide’ for Real Homes Magazine under ‘Sustainable Style’.

This was a wonderful project to be part of, and we worked with obsessive detail to make the property the best it could possibly be.

The result was a highly sustainable and innovative design, embraced the stunning views and location of the property in a contemporary, stylistic manner.

To read more about the design, and see more pictures of this impressive extension, click here.

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Office to become new homes

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Empty offices above shops could soon be converted into flats if proposed changes from the government come into force next month.
Currently planning permission is required for material changes of use of land or a building even if no building work is required. Converting an office above a shop to a residential use would therefore usually require planning permission but from October 1st this could all change.

After an announcement made by the government Permitted development rights look likely to be extended to include the conversion of parts of certain offices and shops to two residential flats.  There will still be exceptions as local authorities can remove permitted development rights where they think they may cause a problem – for example in conservation areas.

Under the 1995 Order, local authorities can remove permitted development rights in geographic areas where they think these new rights might cause a problem. They can do so by making an Article 4 direction, the effect of which is to a require a planning application which in other locations would not be necessary. Article 4 directions are commonly found in conservation areas.

Announcing the proposed changes Mr Pickles said:

“These are common sense planning reforms that will deliver more affordable homes in areas where there are good transport links whilst ensuring better use of existing developed land. Cutting this red tape should be a shot in the arm for the high street increasing footfall and providing a boost to regeneration.”

We look forward to finding out if the new permitted development rights will be as revolutionary as Mr Pickles hopes when they are brought into force in October.

Contemporary Architecture in St Leonards

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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.

 

Barns

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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.