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London, United Kingdom

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Nex- - Contemporary Cottage


Photographs by

Jim Stephenson









Completed in November 2016, this exquisite design clarified the layout of an existing two-storey cottage set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
The clients needed to convert the existing cottage into a comfortable contemporary two-bedroom home that fitted with their lifestyle. As horse breeders and trainers who work in the adjoining rolling fields, it was important that their home was a distinctive sanctuary in harmony with its natural setting.
The fact that it was in an AONB severely constrained what could be done to its exterior. On the other hand, its isolation and south-western aspect meant that it enjoyed spectacular views.
On the inside, the building had a patchwork history of minor extensions over the years, leaving it claustrophobic, awkward, and incoherent.
Our design response sidestepped the site’s constraints by radically reconfiguring the cottage’s internal structure. This intervention facilitated everything that followed.
With the freedom to adjust the internal layout, we reorganised both floors around simple unifying corridors.
Ceiling-height doorways and sliding pocket doors on the ground floor give the impression of a free-flowing, open-plan living space without denying the option to close spaces off. The downstairs toilet, utility room, and plentiful built-in storage of spray-painted oak veneer are treated as secondary spaces, easily accessible but neatly tucked away out of sight.
Strategically placed new windows bring daylight right into the heart of the home and frame views out to the magnificent surrounding countryside, anchoring the building in its setting. The walls are finished immaculately, employing a minimal colour palette that provides a blank canvas for the ineffable play of light and shadow.
An elegantly engineered feature staircase links to the first floor. Delicate and sculptural, the stair treads are multifaceted blades of white powder-coated steel cantilevered from the double-height stairwell wall. They rise up from an asymmetrical timber podium that serves as seating, with more storage underneath. Daylight from above and elsewhere in the home casts an intriguing pattern of shadows, animating the hallway.
Upstairs, almost half the floor area is given over to a master bedroom, replete with en-suite bathroom and walk-in cupboard. The bed faces the setting sun through a window that runs almost the full width of the room to maximize views.
Outside, the changes are slight. Most obviously, we added a new porch clad in angled battens of Siberian larch. This overtly geometrical touch enlivens the façade and hints at the contemporary experience within. We painted the brick envelope dark grey to complement the off-black aluminium window frames.
Overall, the design transforms the building into a bespoke, calm, deceptively simple home rooted in its extraordinary landscape. Finished in warm, tactile materials and with effortless attention to detail, the contemporary cottage exceeds the client’s brief.