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View: Grid List
Date
2014
Region
UK
Sector
Interiors Residential
Budget
< £1m
Themes
Creativity Context Climate
Client
Private
Location
Hertford
Size
295sqm
Contact
Colin Rice
Press
Blueprint (2016)

A distinctive modern building – designed to complement the client’s collection of mid-20th century furniture – sits unobtrusively within a conservation area.

Hide House

Hide House provided us with a rare opportunity – to design a contemporary home within a conservation area.

The brief was to create a sympathetic setting for a collection of mid-century modern furniture. The house is an intriguing – but unobtrusive – addition to the conservation area. Although unashamedly modern, its massing and materials work well with neighbouring properties.

Designing the building as two separate wings – one ‘day’, one ‘night’ – creates both an outer courtyard leading from street to front door as well as an inner private courtyard garden.

The client also wanted a highly energy efficient home – so that was factored into the design from the start. 

Context

Although located in the Hertford Conservation Area, we successfully made the case for a high quality modern house that would add to the variety found in the dense pattern of surrounding streets.

Set within the existing high boundary walls of a long narrow site, the house is virtually invisible from the street. Its impact on neighbouring properties – rather than the streetscape – was therefore the priority. Designing in a modern idiom made sense.

The first objective was to minimise the house’s visual impact by keeping the bulk of the building below and away from the boundary walls.

Both the ‘day’ and ‘night’ wings of the house are set back from the site boundary – and only the ‘night’ wing rises to a second storey. This, and the chimney, are the only parts of the house visible to neighbours. Its slightly pitched roof feels contemporary but also chimes with the predominantly pitched roofs of the conservation area. Windows look out west over the house below, rather than over adjoining gardens.

The form of the building encloses two courtyards.

Creativity

Although discreet, the building has a strong identity.

The form of the building – with its separate living and sleeping wings – cleverly encloses two courtyards. The ‘day’ wing extends across the width of the site to define an outer semi-private courtyard – and parking space – across which the front door can be seen from the street. A gate and sheltered passage lead to a private, secluded courtyard garden.               

This protected inner courtyard has its own microclimate and becomes an outdoor living space – extending out from the living room through bi-folding doors. The courtyard garden is landscaped with a mixture of timber decking, paving and grass, with climbing plants covering its south facing wall.

Materials were carefully chosen to express different elements of the design. The outer courtyard walls are pale grey facing brick; white render is used in the courtyards to help good daylight penetration; and the upper storey has been beautifully detailed in timber – weathered to a silvery grey.

A palette of pale materials provides a calm, neutral backdrop to the vibrant colours of the client’s furnishings. A folded steel stair, painted bright yellow, provides a highlight colour in an otherwise pale interior.

We have maximised natural daylight into the house – while at the same time avoiding adjoining gardens being overlooked. High level windows bring shafts of sunlight into the house whatever the time of day or season.

Climate

The client had high ambitions for the environmental performance of their new home.

The house is super-insulated with mechanical ventilation with heat recovery.

The upper storey roof is wired up to receive horizontal photovoltaic panels which will help drive the air-source heat pump that provides background heating for the house. A log-burning stove is the focal point of the living room – outside, its chimney becomes a distinctive feature.

The lower flat roofs will in due course be planted, with all the associated benefits: greater thermal mass and slower response to solar radiation; attenuated rainwater run-off; reduction in urban heat island effect; and greater biodiversity.