Hunsett Mill is a remote water pumping mill located in the historic Norfolk Broads National Park, situated beside the River Ant, upstream from the Sutton Broads. The house was a residence for the Keeper of the Mill until 1900, when the advent of electricity rendered wind-powered pumps obsolete. Since the end of its working life, the house has been used as a private residence, but has remained an important piece of local heritage, standing adjacent to the well-known historic grade 2 listed Hunsett Mill.
The new extension
In order for the new extension to retreat behind the listed setting of the mill, the new addition is conceived as a shadow of the existing house. By adding a dark volume to the existing brick volume and by virtue of the chosen facade geometry, the exact shape of the extension volume seems ambiguous from afar. The massing and proportions of the new addition are configured to remain subordinate to the original building, yet the charred timber cladding helps it to settle into its context.
The client’s brief stipulated a five bedroom dwelling be created to replace the previous 3 bedroom space. It was decided almost from the outset that an entirely new space would need to be created- the old collection of add-on extensions were cramped and very poorly served by natural daylight, with ceiling heights as low as 2.08 metres. However, planning restrictions allowed only an additional 23 square metres of floor space when compared to the former collection of extensions, and the ridge height of the original house had to remain the highest point in the building.
The extension overcomes these limitations of size and height by creating a very open ground floor layout with three small, double height spaces that create an impression of spatial generosity and allow for the placement of large windows looking out towards the Mill and over the marshes. The open ground floor is structured by a fireplace and changes in floor level to create distinct kitchen, dining and living areas (3). The first floor contains all of the 5 bedrooms as well as two bathrooms, interspersed with the voids created by the double- height spaces.
All internal walls and ceilings consist of the exposed timber structure. The walls release a gentle scent and appear to glow in the afternoon sunlight. Where doors were required in timber walls, they were built to match the thickness and finish to create a continuity of material feel and appearance. Space is optimised by integrating fittings, wardrobes and the fireplace into the timber walls. Limestone tiling for the bathrooms is colour matched to the exposed timber so that there is little visual distinction between them and the rest of the house.
The main staircase is designed to be as light and unobtrusive as possible. The majority of floors are finished with limed, dark baked oak planks to compliment the golden hue of the larch timber walls.
With a desire for the new intervention to be as ecologically responsible as possible, emphasis was placed on the carbon cost of construction and the overall embodied energy expenditure at time of construction. Ground source heat pumps, passive solar heating and independent water well supply make the house almost fully self- sufficient.
The landscaping strategy for the garden is based on the use of local species in order to blend with the local ecosystem, yet to create a controlled appearance and frame the architecture.