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Working details

Room for growth Richard Murphy’s extension to an eighteenth-century house incorporates outbuildings to provide room for a growing family

Simon Morison, a photographer, and Susan, his wife, live in a two- storey stone semi-detatched house in Dirleton, outside Edinburgh. The house has three bedrooms, and had seemed perfectly adequate for a family until the Morisons learned that their first child was to be not a single baby, but triplets. They asked Richard Murphy to extend the house to accommodate this unanticipated increase in the family.


The Morisons’ listed eighteenth-century house, finished with harling and roofed with slate, is in a conservation area. There is a large garden at the rear, bordered on one side by a substantial stone boundary wall. A set of single-storey stone outhouses - sculleries and coalstores - ranged against the boundary wall at its junction with the house were to be transformed into a new kitchen and nursery overlooking the garden.


The new accommodation has been fitted within the footprint of the original outhouses; it is essentially a new building with reminders of the old - a rebuilt part of the original stone wall encloses the nursery. The kitchen, next to the house, is defined by a gently curved wall of white harling, with a row of cedar windows above worktop height. The kitchen is divided from the nursery by two commodious storage areas, one for toys and the other a pantry for extra kitchen storage. The nursery, partly enclosed by stone walls, has two large sliding windows which meet at the corner, in effect ‘dematerialising’ it. The windows slide back on fine days to blur the distinction between inside and outside space.


So that the Morisons can supervise the children from the kitchen, while they play in the paved area of garden next to the house, the main worktop and sink unit are set along the curved wall with its row of windows. The windows pivot individually at the top so that, when they are all raised, the kitchen worktop seems to become a part of the garden. This effect is enhanced when the glazed door to the garden, which closes against the worktop wall, is in the open position.


A glazed skylight runs the length of the pitched roof at its apex to light the back wall of the kitchen and nursery. The reveal is fitted with a mirror to ‘bounce’ light into the room. The bottom of the mirror is above eye-level, giving the illusion that the rooflight is twice the size. At night the rooflight is closed with a trapdoor-like shutter, insulated to reduce heat loss. The shutter, hinged at one side, operates by a steel cable and pulley mechanism. It eliminates the problem, common in conservatories, of glass appearing as a visually unappealing black hole at night.


The roof covering, lead with rolled wood-core joints, is laid on insulated 175 x 50mm timber rafters, in turn supported by a pair of 229 x 89mm channels. The inner channel spans from the original house wall to the end wall of the nursery - the outer channel, which carries the eaves, is supported by a pair of splayed columns. A glazed clerestory runs just below the channel to give additional light to the kitchen and define the separation of walls and roof.

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