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FIRST LOOK

Black House by AR Design Studio combines Kentish references

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Tours of Hastings, Dungeness and Margate informed the assemblage of interlocking forms at this new house in Kent, says Jon Astbury

Winchester-based practice AR Design Studio has drawn on Kent’s architectural landmarks for its recently completed Black House. The clients, who chose to move from a 15th-century Tudor house and build a contemporary home in their garden, embarked with the design team on an architectural tour of the county in search of inspiration.

The floating form and massing of the house was inspired by Sissinghurst Castle Garden, home of writer Vita Sackville-West. The castle gardens are broken into a series of individual experiences, hidden from each other by manicured hedges and weathered red brick walls; only from the writing room in the central tower can the connection of the spaces and whole design be seen.

This idea was translated into rectangular massing divided into blocks by key site axes: a view from the pool to a large populus tree, and a previous path to the site. Each block is linked to a distinct aspect of the garden, with a final connecting view provided from the roof of a brick tower. The volumes were separated to create a central courtyard, with a cantilevering roof to tie the modules together.

F7a6911

F7a6911

Source: Martin Gardner

The design team also viewed the traditional black clad houses of Dungeness – as well as the historic net huts found in Hastings, in East Sussex – and as a response, a vertical black timber cladding is used throughout. Visiting the interlocking volumes of David Chipperfield Architects’ Turner Contemporary Gallery in Margate informed the studio on how to interconnect the low massing of the black timber boxes and the brick tower. 

With each block linking to a different part of the garden, a journey around the functions of the house is experienced. The journey begins with one of the three entrances, designed along the axes of the building. The kitchen diner is a 7.3m cantilevering room facing east to capture the morning sun. With floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, the orientation provides expansive views across the orchard and vineyard. The drawing room fronts the pool area to the west, two spaces linked to accommodate rest and play. A panoramic horizontal window, influenced by Margate, frames the view from the formal dining room across the formal front lawn. The final aspect is the bedrooms, they are provided privacy and seclusion by the proximity of the woodland to the rear of the house. 

These spaces are all connected by the central courtyard, an area of extensive glazing allowing light and fresh air to continually penetrate the house, and provide year round sheltered outdoor space. 

27 ground

27 ground

Ground floor plan

Project data 

Architect AR Design Studio 
Client Private 
Size 400m²
Budget £1.1 million 
Engineer John Kettle & Associates 
Tiles Stone and Ceramic Warehouse
Bathroom furniture Bathroom Warehouse Winchester
Kitchen The Myers Touch
Timber cladding Vincent 

  • 3 Comments

Readers' comments (3)

  • Not a word about context - except that it's somewhere in Kent - so picking up on the dark coastal vernacular of the shanties at Dungeness and net huts at Hastings to justify a predominantly dark assemblage in what appears to be a verdant landscape unrelated to the coast seems a bit tenuous.

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  • very nice.

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  • Jean Pierre Maissa

    A part from language preferences it's really smart and thoughtful

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