It is said that mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow. The initial sketches for this house near Preston certainly blossomed into an impressive family home. We explore the results, inside and out


All photography © John Britton

There is a road in the suburbs of Preston that is something of a laboratory for residential design. There are houses of many different styles and materials designed by generations of architects and built over a period of many years. So when two adjacent sites at the quiet end of the road became available, one already containing a modest existing house, this provided a perfect opportunity to demolish the present dwelling and create a new five bedroom family home for the client without many of the constraints on design often associated with such a prime site.

The brief called for a generous, contemporary family home with a light and airy feel. There were to be five bedrooms, all of them ensuite and the master bedroom suite was to include a dressing room area for two people. Formal living and dining spaces were required for entertaining together with separate informal family living accommodation. With all members of the family enjoying active lifestyles it was stipulated that a gymnasium should be included.

The layout of the house needed to maximise natural light and make the most of views of and access to the large gardens. Privacy was also important for the client as well as a design with character, that should be evident in every aspect of the scheme.


ONE17 partner Mark Lee analysed the site from the point of view of access, orientation, sunpath, views and neighbouring properties before settling on the basic layout of the scheme. Accommodation is arranged in two wings: one of two storeys plus accommodation in the roof and one T shaped single storey wing. Bedroom suites and the formal living and dining spaces are housed in the two/three-storey element whilst the family living accommodation comprising kitchen, breakfast area, dining room and sitting/recreation room is contained in the single-storey element.

The two wings sit at right angles close to one boundary of the site. This creates a garden courtyard between the two wings with most of the accommodation having views onto this important outdoor space. The garage is slightly removed from the house itself, making vehicle access and turning easier in front of the property.  The garage is linked to the main body of the house via a long garden wall on which the roof of the garage appears to perch when viewed from the garden side. This gable is clad in horizontal timber, which is echoed in soffit panels on the main house.

The front elevation of the house, together with the garage and linking wall creates an effective separation between the front public part of the scheme and the rear more private area.

The courtyard, nestling between the two wings of the house, is an important space, acting as an intermediary between indoors and the garden proper. Use of the space is increased by overhanging the gable end of the family sitting area to form a covered terrace, ideal for barbecues and sheltered entertaining.

Externally, high-quality materials and careful detailing present a building that is clearly contemporary but that exhibits the sobriety often associated with a more classical design approach. The predominant external material is natural stone used in both coursed walling and sharp edged, smooth ashlar forms. The mellow honey-coloured walls sit below a crisply detailed zinc roof, which gives a more contemporary character than would be the case with tiles or slates. The grey of the roof finish is echoed in the sober grey colour-coated aluminium finish of the windows and doors.

The same stone that is used for the walls of the house also features extensively in areas of paving and wide sweeps of steps in the garden. Use of a limited palette of materials gives an automatic coherence to the design and pulls the composition together.

The master bedroom suite is particularly impressive with the bedroom incorporating a bespoke daybed in a bay to one side of the room overlooking the garden. The room also has access to a garden terrace. From the bedroom one moves through a luxurious dressing room to the ensuite bathroom. These latter two spaces enjoy generous natural light from glazing in the roof whilst still maintaining the privacy essential in such intimate areas.

The family wing is an intriguing arrangement of spaces entered via the open plan kitchen. Here an island unit under a large rooflight incorporates an informal  breakfast bar. Not content with this, there is also a calm timber lined bay to one side of the room with a small table and chairs perfect for a quiet coffee. This bay looks out onto the serene landscape of the gardens.

High quality materials are also used internally with timber of various types featuring extensively. Here the advantage of the windows and doors being of aluminium on the outside but timber inside is immediately evident as the warm tones of the wood create a domestic ambience enhanced by timber structural framing, wooden floors and extensive use of timber for both loose and built-in furniture.

Another key element in achieving the airiness of the interior is natural light. Clever placement of windows, internal windows and rooflighting in particular, allied to the masterful handling of space in both plan and section, creates a notably light, bright and cheerful home. Top lighting provides ample natural light to spaces without external walls or where issues of privacy or the need to use external walls for furniture precluded the insertion of windows. Not that windows are in short supply – the formal dining room in particular benefits from an impressive ‘ladder’ window extending vertically through the double height space.

Internally a clearly modern approach is taken and detailed design, materials, colours and furnishings articulate the relationship of spaces and views between them to provide a richly varied series of experiences.

The result is a light and airy Interior where the different functions of the two wings of the house help enrich the architectural experience. As already explained the formal dining area is a dramatic double height space with views of the garden through the ‘ladder’ window. The staircase is located at one corner of this space and links to a balcony from where you can look down onto the dining room. Bedroom suites lead off this balcony, in many cases borrowing extra natural light through the use of internal windows.

Beyond the kitchen is the family dining area with built-in storage keeping the clutter of crockery, cutlery and glassware out of sight but near to hand. The family wing is T shaped in plan and the stalk of the T forms the family sitting area. This light, airy yet still cosy room is skilfully arranged to allow conversation, reading, watching TV, listening to music, enjoying the log fire with its purpose made log store or just gazing out into the garden.

Interior décor and detailing helps to bounce natural light around the house whilst reinforcing the clarity of the programme. Materials, fitted and loose furniture all enhance and echo the strong design hand evident in the architectural treatment.

Every aspect of the design, from the overall planning of the site to the architectural treatment of the spaces, to the interior design covering lighting, built-in furniture, loose furniture and decorations is coherent and fully integrated; a strong clear design message is evident in every aspect of the scheme and the client has been particularly complimentary about the way that every detail of the brief was fully considered.

The result is a family home that is easy to live in, with a presence appropriate to its setting and that, thanks to high quality materials and careful detailing, should mature and age gracefully over many decades.

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