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Ivy Cottage by David Sheppard Architects

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How we made the retention of a traditional cottage integral to our contemporary design. David Sheppard, of David Sheppard Architects. Photography by Joakim Boren

Running from north to south, the Erme valley joins Dartmoor to the sea with Mothercombe and Wonnel beaches at the mouth of the river. At Keaton Bridge, with a bend in the river at the weir, a sluice gate opens to a leat that winds its way parallel to the river, once serving the cider barns that are still evident at Thornham and the Mill at Ermington. Between the river and located in a field adjacent to the leat is Ivy Cottage, a disused ‘one up, one down’ stone house with an oversized chimney and outbuilding built from the stone of a redundant quarry located a field away on the Day Estate.

We were appointed by Hugo Day in February 2007 to see whether we could implement a proposal for a traditional form of dwelling that included the demolition of the small house.


Fortunately, the planning approval had expired, paving the way for us to suggest an alternative idea. We were aware that the little house was admired locally and embarked on an approach of restoration and retention as an integral part of our composition.

Our idea was to radiate out from a point within the small enclosure into the field beyond, anchoring and composing a linear organic form, capturing light through an expressive fan-shaped roof, defining the spaces within to a scale that was articulated to complement and enhance the humble dwelling. The resulting roof peaks and serpentine stone wall make a proportional reference in terms of scale and mass.

Although linear, there is a hierachy in the form, with emphasis on the original small enclosure. This is expressed internally with the east and south-facing peaked roof lights, each to a scale similar to the existing stone gable end. These, with their three timber supporting bow roof trusses spreading out and hovering over the open plan space, anchored back to a column placed in the original house and with the vertical slate chimney at the heart of the composition, tie the old and new together.


We presented our ideas to planning officers, who preferred a more ‘subservient approach’ to the existing building. We argued that our proposals were the same in area as what was approved but with the retention of the small dwelling.

Two positive presentations, with sketch models and drawings to the local design review panel paved the way for an approval in January 2008.

Several years then elapsed because of the client’s commitments elsewhere and, following two years of construction, we eventually reached practical completion on 20 June 2012, with a contract value of £508,000.

Due to excessive rainfall in 2012, landscape completion was delayed until February 2013.

David Sheppard, founding director, David Sheppard Architects

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