08 Mar 2021

Thinking Outside the Box

Abbots Way, the latest creation by AR Design Studio, is a stunning five-bedroom house. Bordered by mature trees and a small lake, this spectacular house creates feelings of ultimate relaxation and privacy. Its contemporary design juxtaposes superbly with its beautifully rural location on the south coast of England.

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The site is accessed via a private forest lane. Its overtly linear approach extends into the plot and creates the central conceptual axis. Perpendicular to the former, a second axis intersects and leads towards a hot tub and the lake. These axes are defined by timber paths and large stone walls that begin in the garden and run through the house and out the other side. The walls continue through the plot to link a further separate office and gym space at the bottom of the garden. These dividing walls create four different garden experiences, the first of which is the entrance space. The second is a peaceful pebbled Japanese herb garden to the rear of the house linking the separate office. The third is a private enclosed wooded space dedicated to the kitchen and master bedroom above. The fourth is a large open expanse of tropical plants and lawn reaching down to the lake, reflecting the open-plan living space that looks over it.

A white box, sat on top of the axial walls, gives the upper sleeping floor a lightweight image and appears to be floating above the stone axes. It contains the five bedrooms, all with large glazed areas. This provides beautiful treetop views of the lake and surrounding woodland, creating a sense of being nestled amongst the tree canopy whilst lying in bed.

The ground-floor living areas, nestled under the box and formed by the axis, are enclosed with large sliding glazed panels that provide a seamless link between the internal and external. The terrace further accentuates this, using a single style of floor tile inside that extends outside through flush thresholds to give a real sense of ‘inside/outside living’.

The moat surrounding the house provides a metaphoric sense of security between the outside world and the inner sanctum. Crossing it via a bridge to access the front door enables the owners to psychologically leave the outside world behind and enter into their retreat. The palette of materials used is modest and understated. White and grey render adorns the floating box. Natural stone, inspired by a local 12th-century abbey that sets the vernacular for the area, is used for the walls that dominate the ground floor, providing rugged contrast. Dark floor tiles inside and out make the house’s experience that of a calm play between light and space without boundaries.

In this article, i-Build’s Editor, Rebecca Kemp, sits down with Andy Ramus, Director at AR Design Studio – the architect firm responsible for the design – and Keith Myers, Designer at The Myers Touch – the luxury kitchen remodeler – to find out more about the extensive project.

Andy Ramus, Director at AR Design Studio

RK: Please tell us more about the plot.
AR: The site was set within a mature wooded setting, inherently secluded and private, with the new design replacing an unremarkable 1950s bungalow. The site, therefore, had the potential to accommodate a new build of exceptional quality. Planning-wise, it took approximately two to three months for approval.

RK: Were there any challenging aspects to the project and build?
AR: Due to the site’s verdant character, it was crucial for the build to interact seamlessly with its surroundings, bringing the outside in and vice versa. We ultimately used the design and material palette to achieve this connection and interaction between the building and its context.

RK: Were any renewable systems installed?
AR: Yes, this was a vital aspect of the design. The house is super-insulated to create a highly energy-efficient home, with underfloor heating providing warmth and large overhangs to reduce solar gain in the summer months.

RK: What advice would you offer to anyone looking to self-build?
AR: We highly advise thoroughly researching the process early on and taking the time to find an architect with the right experience for your project type and who holds similar aspirations to what the client wants to achieve. It is also essential to be upfront about your budget to avoid disappointment and take steps to minimise risks, which can pay off in the long run – they can be costly. Such measures may include submitting a pre-application, undertaking the relevant reports, surveys, and site investigations.

Keith Myers, Designer at The Myers Touch

RK: Please talk us through the brief you received from Andy at AR Design Studio.
KM: We had a very interesting brief from AR Design. Andy had designed a conceptual layout for the space and was looking for a sleek white kitchen; but his client had proposed a shaker-style, green kitchen. Andy, however, felt the design didn’t work with the house’s architecture.

RK: How did you all agree on the final design?
KM: Our first meeting with the client was going through their whole thought process surrounding the functionality, colour and style of their desired kitchen. Once discussions began, it became apparent that we could align a kitchen design that worked with the rest of the architecture and ground-floor layout to work together. In our first presentation, we worked with the client to explore and develop thoughts concerning the layout, colour and cabinetry style so that the kitchen fitted with the architecture and style of the building. We then worked closely with the architect to ensure that the final design was successful.

RK: Were there any unusual elements to this design?
KM: Interestingly, the client also wanted a small back-of-house kitchen that included a stainless-steel worktop, sink, dishwasher, utility cabinetry functions and central water supply. This ensured that they undertook the functional aspects at the rear of the house, behind closed doors. The client wanted a large island with seating, luxury appliances, storage, coffee machine, a Quooker tap and TV area in the central kitchen.

RK: Please talk us through the final design process.
KM: First, we designed the back-of-house kitchen space to include the spec they had outlined. We then developed a big central island in Corian that met all their social and entertaining requirements and allowed space for bar stools. Luxury appliance brand Gaggenau was the appliance of choice for the client. The TV and storage area was designed on the other side of the central kitchen, which was beautifully complemented by the internal brick wall. There was a real synergy and relationship between the building and the kitchen itself, which we felt was vital.

RK: Were there any complexities?
KM: We had to consider the extraction and storage level in the central kitchen, particularly the extraction above the hob. Their appliances created steam and smoke when in use; therefore, the extraction had to be very significant, so we included a custom-made full-length ABK extractor with two ducts running into a single motor.

RK: What made this project so successful?
KM: The design ethos was to keep the kitchen as sleek and minimalist as possible, so we worked closely with the architects to keep to the overall design theme that the architect had visioned for the building. We must collaborate with the architect and other partners that are brought into the project, such as an interior designer, to ensure that both the building is working together with the kitchen and that the kitchen works with the building.

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