This old Victorian schoolhouse was renovated by London studio McLaren Excell as a holiday home.
The original layout was almost monastic: one large room with a single corridor off it with cell-like bedrooms and bathrooms to one side only. The main aspect of work for architects was to strip the building back to it’s cob external walls and design a scheme which provided more accommodation over two storeys, set within an interesting set of spaces- but without altering the external envelope of the building.
The open plan living room sits below a bedroom at first floor level, and has a low ceiling height as a result. It was important that the bedroom above confronted and addressed the double-height space of the kitchen, and didn’t shy away. To lend it the required sense of drama, the bedroom was completely suspended from the roof structure. This allowed it to be read as an independent volume, but also prevented any supporting walls or columns from compromising the flow through the living room. This was achieved by concealing the bedroom structure wherever possible and, where this was not possible, it was disguised by using painted steel sections that were indistinguishable from the existing timber roof structure. The result is a deceptively simple ‘floating’ room that seems to defy logic and enables a dialogue between the two ends of the building.
The principal living space is almost church-like in scale and arrangement, so befitting a pure and restrained selection of materials. Birch plywood, concrete, wood, wool and brass are used through-out, and recycled wood/concrete blocks create a structural spine wall which forms the stairwell to the bedrooms above and provides a backdrop to the more intimate living area. The materials used are honest, hard wearing and low in cost. They have all been left in their natural state – ‘as found’ – and, together with the pleasing rhythms of the original building, combine to make a scheme of conceptual simplicity and spatial purity.