New Build Interview – Exeter Living

Building your own home?

We asked Stuart Bayley for his top tips…

What ‘homework’ should a person have already done before they approach an architecture firm like yours?

It is helpful to have created a scrapbook or Pinterest board of houses and projects that you like – including their materials.

What is a really important thing to think about before proceeding?

Consider the orientation of the house to the sunshine and views – ideally, combine the two together so the house can open up to the landscape whilst still benefitting from an ideal solar orientation for natural/passive design.

What are the main pitfalls? 
Rising material prices and construction costs are increasing the contingency that builders are having to apply to their tender / fixed prices – making the overall projects more expensive.


When it comes to design how much do you do and how much does the customer do? How does that relationship work?  
We like to create a few alternative layouts at an early stage for our clients which can then lead to a strong element of client-guided development and working together in developing a suitable design. Many of our clients are families and couples – rather than developers – so they engage us to help them create their unique dream house.


Any new trends we should be paying attention to? 
the increasing need to incorporate renewable technologies to heat our houses in the future and the need to create our own PV for electrical supply – often in conjunction with a large storage battery for the home.


Is there an increased demand at the moment for new builds/ extensions? How has Covid affected your company? 

land with planning permission and that is suitable for new houses in short supply – so consider barn conversions or replacement dwellings as a fall-back position for a new contemporary home.

The brief was to create an eco-friendly family home. The client’s vision was rather unusual though they wanted an upsidedown house. Stuart Bayley, co-director at living space architects, tells us how they did it…

As anyone who loves their property programs will know connecting with nature is currently a big thing for those designing and producing a new home, especially in these parts. few pull off the development which immerses itself so unequivocally in the surrounding landscape as this family home though.

Located in Dunsford, just outside of Exeter nestled into lush greenness the smooth curved roof is the first thing you notice it sets the tone for the property and conveys that this is a place of calm; a gentle space where there is something of a free flow between the inside and outside.

“The roof was originally concived to replicate the form of local dutch barns which sit around the lower edges of Dartmoor,” says Stuart Bayley, co-director at Living Space Architects, the local architecture firm who designed the house.”

“Our client is a big surfer and loved the idea of a natural wave form

The green roof sits on a highly insulated roof with a rubber membrane waterproof finish so the green roof is a significant visual improvement. The natural environment benefit for birds and insects form a green roof is significant and enjoyable.”

The house split level is a quirky design; all the bedrooms are on the ground floor, the living spaces on the first floor (hence being called an ‘upside-down’ house); and amazingly, all rooms in this property have access to the outside garden.

“As you enter the house, the light and staircase draw you up to the first floor living accommodation.” adds, Stuart.

“The open plan first floor configuration creates the sense of open space with no internal walls to disrupt the light across the space from all four sides of the building.”

Stuart tells us that his favorite space are the windows of the ground floor bedrooms as these are designed to avoid any potential overlooking off the neighboring land and house.

“They create a unique character to both the inside of the rooms as they draw your eye to a different view, whilst the north-facing elevation glazing is reduced to keep down the heat loss and an intriguing rear elevation is created.”

What are the other eco-friendly credentials of the property?

“The house is a timber framed, highly insulated and air-tight building which helps to reduce the overall heating requirements. the heating its self is provided by the air-sorce heat-pump which is an increasingly popular method of heating our homes.”

Read the full latest edition of Exeter living here.

Our Latest Eco-Homes

Planning Win: New House In Exminster

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We have received planning permission for this exciting new house design just outside Exeter.  A replacement dwelling, the home will be constructed using ICF insulated blocks to a high level of insulation and airtightness.  
The heating will be supplied via an air-source heat pump and use mechanical ventilation and heat recovery meaning it will reach near Passive energy standards.  The broken form was designed to respond to views, light, and the prevailing winds, with large overhands offering shade and reducing glare. 

On-Site: Modern English Farmhouse, 

This is a contemporary single-storey new house with local stone and timber external details. The house has a low profile and will sit comfortably within the site and agricultural surroundings. 

On-Site: New Family Farm House, Dunkeswell

The design of the proposed dwelling is a two-storey farmhouse with local flint stone details and a timber oak frame kitchen and sunroom. 

Planning Win: Listed House Extension in Exeter

We have received planning permission for a replacement extension to a Grade II listed detached townhouse, situated on a private road in St Leonards. The replacement extension features crittal doors and a section of glass flooring to allow natural lighting into the basement.

Our RIBA Work Stage Videos

We are in the process of creating videos to explain our Architectural Design stages from start to finish. Here are the first two:

Stage 1 – we complete a measured survey of the project and or site. The laser scanner produces a 360º image and laser scan data for each room, we then align the scans from each room with the last. When we are back in the office we use the point cloud data to draw a 3D model in Revit bim software, based on the existing plans elevation and site.

Stage 2 we illustrate the basic concept of the designs. We do this by creating a series of sketch designs or design options for you, looking at how to make the most of your site, existing building, or interior. This stage is essential to help you make the most of your brief and budget. In the second half of stage 2, we draw up the sketch designs in Revit and provide 3D views to our clients. 

This phase also includes developing the designs based on client feedback.

Dartmoor Planning Advice

Going to visit a new project on Dartmoor is one of our favourite parts of our job.  No matter what time of year, Dartmoor always has a new colour to reveal, new light over the moorland or mossy corner down a lane.  Dartmoor is full of contrasts and those of you who have chosen it as your home know only too well; a special kind of magic.

Living Space Architects Project: Forestry Houses, Dartmoor, UK Joakim Borén Photography 2008

Planning advice

Designing architecture in Dartmoor national park requires a particular sensitivity to these special things; the changing light, materials and existing farm buildings that nestle into the landscape.  It isn’t the place for high-end architectural acrobatics, however, it is for the creation of quiet, beautiful spaces.  When we start a project we begin by considering what makes the place special?  What is the particular microclimate of the site? And of course what will work with the particular landscape and site features?

If you are creating an extension or altering an existing home on Dartmoor, it is important to consider the design guidance available on the local authority website.  This includes a wealth of information about what you need to consider in relation to their planning policy. 

You may think the guidance would steer you towards a more traditional approach, but appropriate contemporary architecture still has its place and there are some really good examples of how modern design approaches can sit really well within the National Park.  You can access the design guide here.

Of course if you are thinking of carrying out a project on Dartmoor we would be delighted to come and talk to you or have a remote chat on Zoom or Skype.

Living Space has a wealth of experience working within Dartmoor National Park and carry out planning applications and appeals for clients across the south-west.  If you have a particular question or would like someone to get in touch fill out our enquiry form here:

Class Q Barn Conversions

Class Q legislation provides a means of increasing the value of agricultural buildings through transforming them into new accommodation. We have worked on many of these projects, taking unused barns and converting them into spacious new homes or ancillary living quarters. Gaining consent for the works requires careful consideration in order to justify the barn’s eligibility for Class Q conversion.

Crucially important to the success of these works is the collaborative effort involved. Both Alister King-Smith of Stags planning services as well as Robert Thomson of Simon Bastone Associates have been involved on a range of our projects, providing the necessary specialisation to make our designs fly.

At the moment, we are working on a number of different schemes and below we highlight a few case studies of recently-approved Class Q applications that we have been involved in:

Conversion of Two Barns – Cullompton

Our clients in Cullompton came to us with the exciting brief of converting two barns on the same plot – one steel-framed and fully clad, the other mainly block.

Our designs for the barns transformed the larger, steel-framed structure into a three-bedroom dwelling and the finalised designs can be seen below:

Dutch Barn – Bickington, Newton Abbot

This Class Q conversion project has created a two-storey dwelling within a barn situated in the garden of a farmhouse. The steel structural frame and curved roof, archetypal features of Dutch barns, will be retained whilst some of the cladding is removed in order to allow for the insertion of windows and doors.

This plan details a cross-section view of the proposals, displaying the new first floor and changes to the exterior structure of the barn in order to allow access and bring light in.
At ground floor level, open-plan areas are overlooked by a mezzanine floor.

Piggery – Stoke Climsand, Cornwall

This project concerned the change of use of an old piggery into a residential property. The building lies on farmland and we have worked in collaboration with both Stags planning as well as Simon Bastone Associates’ structural engineering services in order to gain permission for its development.

The building has always been in agricultural use and will retain its current external materials whilst having windows, doors and services installed in order to enable it to become a three-bedroom residential dwelling.

The Original Timber Framed Barn

The greenest building is the one that already exists

We were heartened by the campaign launched recently by the Architects Journal encouraging the Re-use of existing buildings. RetrofitFirst asks architects to sign up to putting the re-use of buildings first and to work , where possible, with what is already in our built world. The quote above is from last week’s magazine cover and we thought it perfectly encapsulated our own beliefs about working with existing buildings in the south west.

Staddons Cottage was insulated at ceiling level using sheep’s wool between the joists and lime plaster on a new lath structure.

As a practice we specialise in the adaption and re-use of existing and historic buildings, to help make them as sustainable as possible, so naturally we signed up to support the campaign. Our two directors are passionate about sustainability and the historic built environment. With Stuart having expertise in all things eco-tech and Kirsty a qualified Conservation Architect, they make a great combination.

The demolition of existing structures to enable the building of new ones is clearly not a sustainable approach – even if the new building uses less energy. The best approach is to help make our existing building stock more sustainable by reducing unnecessary air leakage, improving insulation in an appropriate manner and making sure they are well looked after by carefully repairing and renewing them.

Old buildings are incredibly adaptable – not something that can always be said of our new building stock, which is often difficult to adapt to new uses. Careful extensions and alterations to older buildings can help to breathe new life into a project, without detrimentally impacting on their historic significance.

Many of our projects use natural, breathable insulation to help reduce heat loss. The use of natural fibre insulation is growing rapidly at the moment, with natural and sustainable options on the market such as sheep wool, find out more here. This is particularly successful when converting loft spaces or barns. Solid walls however don’t always need an additional layer of insulation, with thick stone and cob walls working as excellent heat stores. The image below shows the addition of external wood fibre insulation to a 1970’s extension. This approach works well with existing cavity walls, although insulating internally is often a better approach for listed buildings.

The image above shows wood fibre insulation being added to an existing 1970’s extension, which was rendered with breathable lime. This was part of an overall refurbishment project and included replacing windows and doors to create a a much more airtight construction, Heating was replaced with a wood pellet boiler utilising the RHI.

Historic England encourage owners to look to the past for solutions to problems of heat loss and draughts. Historically home owners would have hung tapestries and had thick curtains or shutters to help keep them warm. A similar approach today and help keep your Listed property warm without unnecessary intervention. See their advice on their website here.

Repairing old windows is also a much more sustainable approach than replacing them with UPVC. Many windows are able to be adapted with the insertion of slim double glazing units with systems like Pilkington Spacia providing a high quality option. Secondary glazing is not always the most practical solution, but can works well and companies like Mitchell & Dickinson in North Devon offer a service to repair and renovate timber windows alongside installing very low impact secondary glazing.

Using recycled materials is an approach we would like to take more often. Rotor, a Brussels-based design practice are creating a website that will help architects and building owners source recycled materials for their build. The UK version of the site can be accessed Here We are pleased to see Exeter’s Toby’s Reclamation Yard on the list, and hopefully more locations in the south west will be added. Rotor have an arm of their business that salvages materials from demolition sites and sorts them for re-use. Hopefully this idea will be will be taken on in the UK and it will become easier to source recycled materials for new build and refurbishment projects.

Finished and flourishing: our barn conversion in Chagford

We are thrilled with the bright, characterful and attractive home that has been created through our conversion of a barn in the historic market town of Chagford.

The converted barn, situated close-by to the Grade I listed St Michael’s Church, Chagford

The brief

Our clients came to us seeking architects who would bring a contemporary approach and modern style in the barn’s internal refurbishment. Whilst they already had existing planning permission for conversion, our clients wanted to review the design and make a number of changes to it in order to improve the main space as an open-plan kitchen, dining and living area.

Open plan living area combining both historic and contemporary finishes

Why a barn conversion?

Barn conversions can provide a unique means of creating a stunning residence in a location that is otherwise impenetrable in terms of development. Obtaining permission for the erection of an entirely new dwelling can encounter obstacles, but barn conversions allow historic structures to be maintained and transformed into homes with character, often in sought-after locations. In this case, the barn and adjoining yard are situated in close proximity to St Michael’s Church, some of which dates from as early as the 13th century.

Unique views of the historic Chagford market town

Clean, contemporary finishes are complemented by wood and stone elements throughout the barn.

At first floor level, the converted barn has three bedrooms and a suspended walkway that connects the rooms and leads to the staircase.

Historic trusses were retained and included in the double height barn
The traditional stone walls give little away about their updated interiors

This conversion has provided a space in which the barn’s historic agricultural use has been worked with in order to create a modern living area that benefits from its special location and rustic stone finish.

Two are better than one: the curious case of Class Q

We have recently gained Class Q approval for the proposed conversion of two barns at a site near Cullompton to residential use. What makes this ruling a particularly good victory is that the two barns’ status as agricultural buildings was up for debate and how these can be converted retaining the structure and cladding in place.

The challenges when submitting a Class Q application is to convincingly demonstrate how the building can be converted and that the use of the building in question is primarily agricultural. Class Q legislation then hold out the possibility for it to be converted to a dwelling.

The proposals

We are delighted that the local authority have deemed the conversion as a means of conserving the design and external appearance of the building. The bigger barn will form a spacious three-bedroomed residence, and features a covered reception area on its west elevation, as pictured above. An open-plan kitchen and dining area allow for a bright and light main living space with lots of glass, which allows for a sense of flow with the surrounding countryside. The benefits of creating your dream home in a former barn are perfectly illustrated here with this beautiful setting, large site and a shell in which to a characterful and unique place to live can be constructed.

The second barn is not quite as big, and has been used mainly as an office to serve the horticultural business. It is by no means outdone by its neighbour, and has an en-suite bedroom and large dressing room. The front door opens on to a lobby from which you move through into the combined kitchen and living room.

We are looking forward to these new homes being built – stay tuned to see their progress!

Hooray for Southernhay!

We love being involved in local projects – especially when they’re on our doorstep. Over the past month the LSA team have been working hard on a new development here at Southernhay West. One of the wonderful Georgian style Grade II* Listed townhouse is having a revamp and we couldn’t be more excited to get this beautiful building up and running again.

By January 2020, Number Nine will have five floors of luxury office space with full infrastructure for 21st century businesses to work from.

Externally this project contains a great deal of heritage, although sadly like many of the buildings on Southernhay it has lost a lot of its historic detail internally. Throughout our design work here at LSA we were sensitive to this, adding back period doors and details where possible. The internal building work is underway and the site team are doing a sterling job. Below shows the current state of the building. Working closely with our clients, who also own the stunning Southernhay House hotel, we are creating an exciting new scheme for the interiors with high quality materials and fittings. We have also submitted a Listed Buildings application for some improvements to the exterior.

The refurbishment aims bring the spaces up to date. With brighter, well designed, high quality spaces the client hopes to entice businesses with the opportunity to work from this unique building.

Look out for the progress pictures!

Transforming a building which transforms lives…

Since our last post on the Salvation Army, the project has made great progress and exciting things have been happening. We are eager to share the next stage of our work, as the team here at LSA have been working hard with their design caps on. From exterior to interior, the design process is now well underway for the redesign of Friars’ Walk.

In our previous post, we highlighted the importance of the building’s history and how the Salvation Army has had a great impact on our society here in Exeter. Friars’ Walk is home to a thriving community, and we believe that the people at Salvation Army are taking the right steps towards the future of this building.

We knew from the outset that the interior spaces required a high-quality design strategy, and we intended each space to bring something new and different to the renovation of this building. This raised a range of considerations, from the function of each space down to the quality of finishes used. The style of design had to be sympathetic to the building’s past, but also needed to enhance and be conducive to modern life. The renovation is partly intended to act as a means of attracting people to use the building, and better appreciate all it has to offer. Opening up the interior spaces allows the building to be versatile, in keeping with its use as a site of varied activities. Below are some of our initial 3D views of the new interior spaces:

Chapel Space looking back on to Entrance Cafe
Chapel Space
Entrance Cafe
New Entrance Area
Basement Area
First Floor Area

First Floor area from double height space

The future is looking bright for Friars’ Walk. We feel privileged to be working with the Salvation Army, and hope that we can offer them something special which will keep their community thriving. This is only the start – so stay on the lookout for updates on what unfolds next!