Our Clients lived in a draughty, creaky Gd.2 Listed house in nearby Sonning and were fed up of being disconnected from the garden and not being able to change their house to meet their needs. They wanted to change how they lived their lives so bought a late 1960’s brick box house in Wargrave with the hope of creating something special.
Their brief was for everything they had missed previously – a fantastic connection with the garden, no draughts, very well insulated, easy to clean and maintain and a generous master bedroom suite. The house was architecturally uninspiring and hadn’t been touched since the 1970’s so they wanted to make it their own. Our early conversations touched on the Modern movement of the same era and how this might influence the design.
At the same time we established that the house, which sits on a backwater of the Thames, was not only built on the Thames flood plain, but marshland reclaimed from the river. Being in Environment Agency Flood Zone 1 would make the planning application process more challenging and being on reclaimed land would affect the structural approach. As is common with riverside properties, there was also evidence of bats roosting which needed to be considered throughout.
We developed designs for two extensions, the first of which was a two storey side extension designed to appear as part of the original building. By extending over the garage and adding a new front facing dormer, space would not only be created for the new master suite, but also the dumpy proportions of the existing roof would be elongated and simplified.
A single storey rear extension was designed to span the full width of the house, where kitchen, dining and living spaces would be created with a fantastic connection with the garden. Very large spans of sliding glazing would allow the entire space to be opened up to outside.
The garden of the house floods regularly, but to avoid potential flooding of the house in future as climate change causes sea levels to rise, we proposed raising ground floor level by 150mm. We prepared a detailed pre-application submission for Wokingham Borough Council, explaining how we had dealt with flooding, bats, and all the other challenges, which was received very positively. The subsequent planning application followed soon after and was approved first time.
As both the Clients are Geologists, we designed the rear extension to hint at being carved from a piece of stone. The walls to the sides of glazing are fluted and splayed, giving a subtly sculptural, chiselled appearance and the impression of worked stone. Above the glazed openings, a consistent band unites the extension and defines the edge of the roof.
The extension wall panels are load-bearing pre-cast concrete, supporting the green roof of the extension above and allowing the oversized glazed openings below. The panels were prefabricated using moulds to create the precise forms required and then simply craned into place. We chose red and black stone aggregates for the concrete to mix to compliment the utilitarian brickwork of the original house and specified a honed and acid-etched finish to highlight the aggregate.
The red colour from the panels is referenced throughout the interiors, as recessed finger pulls to cupboards, as bathroom tiling and as a bathroom mirror. The black colour is referenced in the open steel and oak staircase and exposed light fittings.
Furniture has been designed to echo the era in which the house was originally built and we designed a black tubular steel and oak table for the new dining room, which is paired with chairs designed by influential mid-century British Architect, Eric Lyons.
Floor to ceiling joinery conceals secret doors to the hidden larder, utility room and bar, whilst a slatted oak ceiling has been designed to improve the acoustics in the extension for the couple’s hearing-impaired daughter. A fireplace was designed in pre-cast concrete, with a splayed and fluted opening to accommodate the stove and match the design of the extension.
Finally, both the existing front facing dormer and new dormer in the two storey side extension, were redesigned to echo the splayed and fluted design of the rear extension. The new dormers quietly announce the house’s new identity to the street.
“It’s an amazing house, and it’s changed our lives. Fred was everything we hoped for, and more.
We loved working with Fred. He handled all the relationships on site brilliantly, and if there was the slightest issue, he would sort it. He really believed in what he was doing, and it showed – in the way he listened to us, and in the care he took over every detail.”