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FIRST LOOK

Catja de Haas Architects designs four-bedroom timber house

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The 314m² private house was externally detailed with the support of Takero Shimazaki Architects and takes a fabric-first approach

Located in the south-east of England in an Area of Outstanding Beauty, Burwood House consists of two oak-clad volumes linked together by a third, inspired by the forms of existing oak trees in the adjacent garden. The large lounge to one side of the house is enclosed by glass and looks out towards the sea. 

Above this, a grass roof almost extends the existing garden while rising up to link the volumes. 

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The design takes a fabric-first approach, aspiring to achieve low U-values and air leakage – inspired by Passivhaus detailing. Air-source heat pumps, natural ventilation and solar orientation with overhangs help to regulate solar gain. Technical detailing of the exterior was designed in collaboration with Takero Shimazaki Architects.

On the ground floor is the kitchen and dining area along with two bedrooms, in addition to the seaward-facing lounge. The top floor contains the other two bedrooms and a second living room that also doubles as a fifth bedroom.

Exposed CLT makes up the main material palette for the interior, complemented by oak-frame doors and polished concrete blocks for the flooring.

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Architect’s view

The house is designed to blend in with the garden and have minimal impact on the landscape. The large glass façade is therefore directed towards the garden. The detailing of the exterior in collaboration with Takero Shimazaki Architects (TS-A) follows the concept of the house: a careful layering of inside and outside spaces.

We consider the ‘outside’ to constitute the garden and lounge area, including the stairs and landing squeezed between the two volumes. ‘Inside’ is the space enclosed by the CLT volumes and clad with oak on the outside. The ‘in between’ is the kitchen, which is enclosed by CLT panels and oak cladding and placed underneath a floating living room. The detailing therefore corresponds with this. Tiles that keep their colour continue to form the terrace. The recycled glass-bottle window sill continues outside and becomes a seating object that can be accessed from the lounge as well as from the garden. The terrace blends into the garden itself.

Stepping stones (concrete blocks with the same 600 x 600mm tiles placed on top) sit along the perimeter of the house and between the terraces. Wildflower planting comes up to the windows, while the jagged edge of the terrace lets flowers come into the terrace, and in places where tiles are omitted herbs are planted. The grass roof and wildflowers were deployed to blend the edge between garden and lounge.

The concept of the scheme tries to employ Modernist ideals about open space, sequencing of spaces and flexibility. The lounge is a large open space while the CLT volumes divide the space into different zones, creating the feeling of passing through a variety of spaces. The CLT ceiling continues outside – coldbridging has been resolved by wrapping the edge of the CLT with 30mm insulation and cladding it with spruce panelling to simulate the composition of the panels. The space needed for insulation is also enough to hide the fixing of the aluminium window as well as the curtain rail. The ring beam that holds up the roof hides the height difference between CLT and spruce cladding.

An almost traditional entrance hall is formed by a single panel that divides the entrance area from the rest of the space. On the other side of the panel there is a large open space that angles and opens up towards kitchen and balcony above and opens up to the terrace. An eating area, as well as the end of the lounge, are framed by a higher window sill, under which there are storage units. An oak door marks the entry to the more private areas. The rooms inside the CLT volumes are clad with plasterboard and painted.

Storage elements are hidden in the lounge: spruce-veneered doors that match the CLT panels hide an office cabinet and when the doors are opened they divide the lounge further to separate it from the created office area. Storage underneath the low window csill is on wheels and can double up as extra seating. 

Catja de Haas Architects

2 ground floor plan burwood

Client’s view

The architect developed a superb, comprehensive design solution for the brief.

She retained the first-floor view of the harbour as an anchor point in her design and then worked back from there. She resolved the dilemma of the 45 degree angle to the plot required to see the harbour by creating a Y-shaped footprint when seen from above. One leg of the Y is at 45 degrees to the length of the plot and the other leg is at 90 degrees, with the base of the Y shape in between these two angles.

She reconnected the house with the garden by making the ground-floor facade entirely of glass, and by moving the parking to the side of the house at the base of the Y and positioning the entrance there.

The grass and wildflower roof on the garden side of the building and the entirely natural oak cladding fit in delightfully with the oak garden and the AONB status of the area.

The house is very cosy for two people but can comfortably accommodate and absorb up to 10 people, through the use of a ‘Modernist’ design approach which prioritises the living spaces over the bedrooms in terms of size. The house has a very spacious, entirely glass-facaded lounge space downstairs and a warm living room upstairs with large window and balcony overlooking the harbour. The kitchen is very comfortable in size by avoiding the ubiquitous kitchen island. And we have a medium-sized master bedroom with en-suite and three smaller bedrooms with two general access bathrooms and a large bed sofa in the living room.

The house has outstanding environmental sustainability credentials through its grass roof, wood construction, airtight construction methods and air-source heat pumps for the heating of the house and water – materially powered by 8kW of high-efficiency solar panels and supported by a wood-fired waterboiler and heat exchanger.

As such the house is a triumph of intelligent design that completely delivers on the design brief. But on top, the house is a delight to live in not only functionally but also aesthetically. 

I credit this entirely to the sensitive and intelligent use of space, the ample natural light combined with beautifully designed high-end interior lighting in the evenings, and the rigorous use of only a handful of entirely natural materials. For the interior we used clay tiles and oak or wool carpet flooring, porcelain worktop and mother of pearl splash back in the kitchen, and linen, woollen and industrial felt curtains.

In all, the house is not only a fantastic house to live in, but it is also a great example of the enormous value add of truly outstanding architecture.

5 section 1 and 2 burwood

Project data

Start on site January 2016
Completion July 2018
Gross internal floor area 314m²
Form of contract or procurement route JCB Medium Built
Construction cost Undisclosed
Architect Catja de Haas Architects
Technical support Takero Shimazaki Architects (TS-A)
Client Philip ten Bosch
Structural engineer Foster Structures
M&E consultant Jared Engineering
QS PT Projects
CLT subcontractor Eurban
Sustainability consultant Ecological building systems
Landscape consultant Urban Green Artists 
Project manager Lockside
CDM coordinator Takero Shimazaki Architects (TS-A)
Approved building inspector Integral Building solutions
Main contractor Lockside
CAD software used Vectorworks, Rhino, Microstation

Burwoodsketch

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