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Chetwoods' Butterfly House set for metamorphosis into eco-cottage

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A 1930s timber-framed house, transformed by Chetwood Associates into the award-winning Butterfly House two decades ago, will now be made into a ‘quieter’ eco-cottage as part of a 10-year social building project

The original cottage structure was made from a Canadian ‘kit’ and was built for the 1930 Ideal Home Show. It was put into storage before being re-erected in Dunsfold, on the Sussex-Surrey border, as a holiday home in 1948.

The site was subsequently bought in 1993 by Chetwoods founder Laurie Chetwood, who masterminded its conversion into a four-bedroom house based on the life cycle of the butterflies attracted by the plot’s ecology.

The building was nominated for a Manser Award in 2004 but has laid vacant in recent years.

Now the practice is once again drawing up plans to overhaul the building, this time metamorphosing the structure into a self-sufficient and off-grid building remade with natural materials.

Throughout the 2020s the site will be a ‘haven and refuge where people can refresh, recharge and recover while having opportunities to participate in a live design and construction project’, according to Chetwoods.

The plan is to run the development as an ongoing example of the circular economy, with local community and schools groups invited to participate in the scheme, and others welcomed in for sabbaticals in its residential facilities.

Chetwoods said the building would use ‘live trees to create structure for living accommodation’, as well as coppicing for wall partitions and felled timber and local clay for other structural elements and furnishings.

It added: ‘A building that was designed to stand up and make a symbolic artistic “splash” 20 years ago will metamorphose into something much quieter to reflect a very different world.’

‘Rather than [say] “look at me” it will retreat into the landscape, absorbed into its hillside site, blurring and confusing the concept and experience of inside/outside.’

Chetwood said the project would be a form of research and development and added that he hoped it could provide a retreat for everyone from inner-city children to people suffering from mental health conditions.

‘Its very hard to do a proper circular economy building with any commercial aspirations,’ he said. ‘Its about giving back to the community.’

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