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Office S&M’s ‘unusual’ multicoloured house in Bedford gets go-ahead


Councillors in Bedford have approved Office S&M’s designs for a ‘not conventional’ multicoloured house at the bottom of a back garden

The proposals, backed by the council’s planning committee this week, are for a 240m² two-storey family home for a retiring couple looking to downsize.

The application was reported to the committee by a councillor who had some concerns that the house, which features a distinctive exterior cladding with olive corrugated concrete, could appear ‘out of character’ with the area. 

But planning officers recommended approval, describing the house as a ‘not conventional’ series of stacked flat roof boxes, with several variations in height and various balconies, projections and buttresses and ‘unusual windows’.

They said: ‘It is recognised that the design is not conventional and will not be to everyone’s taste, however design is a subjective matter and a refusal cannot be justified on this ground alone, especially if the proposal is acceptable in all other respects.’

The architects – whose project Salmen House was shortlisted in the AJ Small Projects last year – said the proposal was a ’contemporary expression of what a detached property can be’.

Office S&M said it expected work to start on site early to mid 2019.

04 garden front view

04 garden front view

Architect’s view

The proposal is for a new-build, three-bedroom, two-storey property which aims to deliver an exemplar family home on an end-of-garden infill site. The owner of the existing property intends to construct the new house for their own needs as a downsizing retired couple since the current house no longer fits their long-term requirements. A smaller, better organised, and more accessible house will suit these needs, and enable the existing house to be made available for a new family.

Each house in the local area is a representation of the time in which it was built, with the existing house on the site designed as an Art Deco villa. As such, the proposal is designed for its own time as a contemporary expression of what a detached property can be.

The house has been designed from a family of 3D forms, which create the composed elevations at the front and back, with lower, more informal flanks. This family of forms is wrapped together by a palette of cladding materials – grey shiplap weatherboarding, olive corrugated concrete, and heather glazed terracotta – which work to unify the elements. At the same time, the composition of cladding materials and window motifs serves to differentiate the entrances and floors respectively through family-based rules.

15 west elevation

15 west elevation

Internally the house creates large entertaining spaces on the ground floor, with a suite of bedrooms set back on the first floor. The house is designed to best practice wheelchair standards, which exceed Part M and Lifetime Homes, to allow for the flexibility of access upstairs via a stairlift or living entirely on the ground floor with a wheelchair-sized wet room.

The infill site required careful design to minimise impact on the mature garden, and to enable windows to face over neighbouring properties without overlooking. The colour scheme of the design was developed from a reading of colours from the site, and as such starts to blend the building in with its context. This patterning also ties together and softens the form of the house, by breaking up the larger geometries of the family of shapes.

The house will be constructed to exemplar sustainability standards, with a reduction in carbon emissions of 50 per cent below Part L requirements. Taking a fabric-first approach with well-insulated structure and triple glazed windows, the house also incorporates a range of renewable technologies including ground source heat pump, photovoltaic panels, and passive stack ventilation. 

 Project data

Location Bedford
Type of project Private House 
Client Private
Architect Office S&M
Planning consultant Hill Planning Consultancy
Transport consultant Matrix
Energy consultant Energy Plus
Arboriculturalist Ruskins 
Gross internal floor area 240m²


Readers' comments (3)

  • Industry Professional

    Round of applause for the Bedford planners and planning committee................I can't say I like the design but I love the fact that the Local authority are not trying to impose stylistic constraints on the architects creativity.
    If only other planners would stick to land use and massing the country could be a more vibrant and innovative place. Some hope................

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  • Applause continues... I've even had a Conservation and Design Officer, with no discernable understanding of either discipline, claim that her opinions we "not subjective" as she was a "fully qualified member of the Council staff". Time to man the barricades?

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  • The model is great - especially when complimented by the 'Magic Roundabout' trees!

    Shame about the site - yet another garden grab.

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