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Contrasts characterise cottage conversion

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The site of Alma Cottage in Charlecombe, near Bath, is mentioned in the Domesday Book. The present cottage dates from the fifteenth century when it was a one-storey thatched building with a loft. At the beginning of this century it was converted into a two-storey dwelling and outhouses were added. The present owner, Richard Frewer, once a director of Arup Associates, bought Alma Cottage in 1995 and has since converted it into a house for the use of his family.

Frewer's approach was similar to that used by Arup Associates at Snape Maltings: he has retained as much of the old fabric as possible and inserted clearly articulated 'new' elements to make the buildings habitable.

The original plan form consisted of small poorly lit rooms in the main house and an ad hoc collection of stores in the outhouses. By moving a central nineteenth-century staircase to the rear wall, Frewer opened up the ground floor for use as a large living room. Reorganisation of the upper floor provided three bedrooms and a bathroom accessed from a long rear corridor. A new main entrance forms a lobby connecting the existing cottage and an additional new wing which replaces the outhouses. The rear wall and linear form of the outhouses have been retained in the new wing but, instead of a solid wall facing on to the garden, a 'loggia' effect has been created using timber framing with glass infill, to take advantage of views out to the garden and countryside beyond. Timber trusses with fine steel ties and timber boarding between replace the old outhouse roof.

Throughout, new insertions have been clearly articulated to differentiate them from existing elements. They set up a rhythm of contrasts: thick/thin, heavy/light, rough/ smooth, with new materials, technology and production techniques allowing a finesse in detailing very different from the rough- hewn craft techniques of the old cottage.



Richard Frewer


Peter Howard


MK: Rickaby Thompson


Buro Happold: Eddie Pugh


Dennis Vaughan


CC Carpentry


heating and plumbing ATS (Bristol), solid timber decking Sharpe & Fisher, iroko Oskar Windebank, oak block flooring Reclamation Services, Kooltherm Encon Insulation

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