Stable Acre is a holiday home situated in a former paddock on the edge of a work- ing farm near the village of Haveringland, eight miles north-west of Norwich. The client’s brief was to create a bold contemporary house in this beautiful Norfolk site, with large, open plan and informal living space and a wide view of the landscape extending to the south-west. The quality of light, material palette and arrangement of rooms were of paramount importance in achieving an atmosphere of gentle calm and balance. Rather than a minimalist interior, a house that would celebrate life was a shared ambition of client and architect.
The former paddock was reconfigured by first removing a large 1990s garage that obscured the house from the approach road. An apple orchard and nut grove were then introduced to domesticate the landscape and create outdoor rooms that invite different seasonal use and frame key views. The journey from the site entrance
to the interior spaces was established through the inclusion of a series of pa- vilions. A dense concrete and lead gatehouse, which contains a refurbished bore- hole and pump, frames one’s arrival. Within the three remaining original walls of the stable block, two further brick pavilions were introduced functioning as an entrance loggia and fireplace. The steel beams necessary to create the generous living space requested by the client are supported by these two new interventions. The house’s Russian doll character is completed by the precast concrete niches
at each entrance, whose forms echo the house’s section in miniature. Fragments of the ruined nineteenth century stable block were retained and incorporated into the house.
New materials are simple, pragmatic and not extravagant but handled in a crisp and controlled manner. The result is robust, easy and cost-effective to maintain and sensitive to its context and the environment.
The overall environmental impact of the development was significantly reduced by retaining the main building structure, thus limiting the need to extract new raw materials and minimising embodied energy. The original solid brick construction was pointed and then internally insulated to reduce heat loss and improve air tightness. The orientation of the original structure offered the opportunity to maximise beneficial solar gain in winter by providing large south facing windows and leaving the northerly aspect ‘closed’ from the elements to minimise unwanted heat loss. The southerly glazing, coupled with the thermally massive floor struc- ture and exposed brick walls, provides some passive heating of the space. The relatively shallow floor plan allows for effective cooling by natural ventilation and good penetration of daylight throughout, meaning the need for electric light- ing is dramatically reduced. All of these measures allowed the development to re- tain features of the original building while bringing it up to modern standards of environmental performance.
Broadland District Council has strict policies governing development in this part of rural Norfolk. No new houses are allowed, all new construction should be on the footprint of previous structures and conversions to houses must form part of a complex of buildings that retain an agricultural appearance. The original nineteenth century stable block had already been unsympathetically converted to residential use with windows added into the north-facing brick wall. Therefore the planning authority recognised the opportunity to better conserve the herit- age value of the site whilst allowing a bolder design approach to the south-facing façade. Local Norfolk red bricks to match existing were sourced and a palette of materials consistent with the local agricultural vernacular agreed upon. Planning was granted first time around and the authority has since championed the project as an example of confident, modern but nonetheless sympathetic residential devel- opment in the area.
Stable Acre was completed in 2010 and included in the Daily Telegraph’s ‘Ten Best Buildings of 2010’. David Kohn Architects also won the 2010 ‘One-Off House Archi- tect of the Year’ Award.
Exterior windows/doors: Crittall
Profiled Metal Roofing: Belmont Roofing
Bespoke Joinery: Mike Tuer
Start on site date: May 2009
Date of completion: January 2010
Gross internal floor area (m2): 250sq.m
Total cost: £380k