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AJ Specification

Bumpers Oast by ACME

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A nod to the traditional Kent oast house, this four-bedroom home was built with a timber frame and the expertise of local trades and craftsmen. Photography by Jim Stephenson

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ACME has reimagined the traditional oast house form to create a new home within the rolling landscape and apple orchards of Kent. Bumpers Oast is a 21st century house closely based on the distinctive local vernacular houses used to dry hops.

Five shingle-clad towers rise up a former apple orchard, creating a low-energy contemporary home. The property has been created for a family that moved to Kent 10 years ago and fell in love with the intimacy and idiosyncrasies of living in these circular spaces.

The proportions of the tower roundels were based on traditional oast house geometries but stand slightly apart from one another, creating views inwards and outwards. Each houses the more private functions of a home, such as bedrooms and bathrooms. Between them is a triple-height central space that opens out to the orchard and forms the heart of the house.

Traditional oast houses are brick turrets with shingle-clad timber roof cones. In order to create a very low-energy house, it was decided to construct the entire building as a highly insulated timber structure.

Friedrich Ludewig, director, ACME


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Project data

Start on site November 2012
Completion June 2019
Gross internal floor area 230m2
Construction cost £890,000 
Construction cost per m£3,870
Architect ACME 
Client Private
Structural engineer AKT II
M&E consultant Furness 
Environmental consultant Etude
Building control Wilkinson Construction Consultants
Planning consultant Barton Willmore
Main contractor Harry Barnes 
CAD software used AutoCAD 
Annual CO2emissions  14.22 kg/m2

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Architect’s choices

The curvatures of the rooms meant we needed to use finishes and fittings able to deal with the geometry. 

Initially, we were worried we wouldn’t be able to build a curved kitchen within budget and considered making it out of faceted straight cabinets to avoid highly bespoke and expensive units. However, the client found a local joiner with extensive experience working with ply and wanted to carry through the vision of fabricating the joinery with curved fronts. The kitchen units are built up with a birch ply carcass, while recycled oak sleepers were used for the cabinet doors and drawers. 

The material palette throughout the house was designed to transition from cooler, hard materials to softer wood tones as you move upwards into the higher, more private spaces. We wanted to maintain a neutral range of finishes, including birch ply, polished concrete and warm oak. 

Micro-cement was used on some walls and bathroom floors to mirror the quality of the polished concrete floor and because it could easily be applied to the fluid geometry of the interiors. 

Small, circular mosaic tiles were selected for the walls of the downstairs bathroom in the same grey tones of the concrete floor, giving them a monochromatic surface with a variation in reflectivity.

Lucy Moroney, project architect, ACME

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Kent-style tiles in eight shades were used to create the exterior skin, slowly fading from dark red at the base to orange in the centre and blue towards the sky. We considered the colours carefully to bring the project into harmony with its context and to make them appear intrinsic to the materials, rather than applied.

Instead of using a glazed finish, we used a mix of tiles treated with an engobe finish – a type of clay slip. The blue-grey tiles at the peak were given a semi-gloss effect. This results in a slight sheen, which absorbs and reflects the light differently across the variations in colours. 

Kent is known for its peg-tile, a plain type with a third central peg, which facilitates the cladding of the otherwise complex geometry of the cone shape. Laying the tiles relied heavily on traditional local craft skills to create smooth transitions from the rectangular tiles of the cylinders to increasingly tapering shapes for the cones, and to work with a flat tile rather than the more traditional, slightly curved Kent tile. We collaborated closely with the roofers, who were comfortable working from our co-ordinated pattern drawings, as it is common practice in Kent to create geometric grids or monograms on tiled roofs.  

Lucy Moroney, project architect, ACME

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Selected products

Masson Joinery
Stairs, wardrobes, built-in bedroom furniture

Wood Works Brighton
Bespoke built-in furniture
Kitchen, study, utility room

Plain clay tiles
Tondach (Wienerberger)
Engobe plain tile, 190 x 280mm
External façade

Roofing and lead works
Swift Roofing Services

Concrete flooring
Contemporary Concrete Floors
Power-floated concrete flooring

Oak herringbone
First and second floors throughout




  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • A lot of careful detailing, but there's surely some very questionable thinking behind some aspects of the design.
    The most glaringly obvious is the carefully crafted smoothing down of the junction of wall with roof - the result of trying to make the complete form appear sculpted from a single material, as is increasingly the fashion?
    Aping the form of oast houses but denying the identity of the roofs as separate structures results in a strange dog's breakfast - maybe a witty joke, but good architecture?

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