Creative Concrete

Whether it’s shuttered, polished or even replica (one project featured cementitious resin as a flooring — a lower-cost alternative to polished flooring and softer underfoot), concrete has become the favourite raw material of choice for homeowners looking to introduce industrial style to their projects.

Used sparingly throughout Jake Edgley’s award-winning project (shown above and below), with a pairing of polished concrete floors and shuttered concrete walls – the wood grain finish was achieved using timber formwork – the result is simply stunning.


Pivoting Patio Doors

Move aside bi-fold and sliding doors, the latest glazed patio doors do not fold or slide back, but delicately pivot — providing a large expanse of glass coupled with minimal frames as a further benefit. The Vitra Pivot door from IQ Glass, shown below, can be specified in widths of up to 2.4m and heights of 3.7m.

pivoting patio doors IQ Glass

‘Slate’ Cladding

Drawing inspiration from the local area and reinterpreting traditional materials and details in interesting ways is one means of grounding modern new builds and extensions within the vernacular.

Slate fibre cement tiles cladding

This outbuilding, designed by Moon Design+Build, is clad in Marley Eternit’s low-maintenance Thrutone fibre cement slates, which provide a contemporary take on vertical slate cladding. “Vertical slating provides continuity between roof and façade and is fast becoming a popular architectural choice for modern, clean lines,” add the experts at Marley Eternit.

Feature Rainwater Goods

Hidden rainwater goods have been popular in recent years. However, making a feature of this element of the building, with chunky, aesthetically pleasing gutters, hoppers and downpipes, is another (cheaper and perhaps less complex to achieve) solution.

Feature rainwater goods

It’s a particularly good idea on less prominent elevations which need a healthy dose of architectural interest (as here, on this project designed by Francesco Pierazzi Architects). Material choice is important — forget PVCu, opt for streamline steel from the likes of Lindab and Alumasc.

Discreet Joinery

Timber cladding means this small wall makes a big impact in this London self build designed by John Osborn Design. It also hides a door — meaning visitors are not immediately confronted by the downstairs WC upon entering.

Discreet joinery entrance storage

Concealed doors are a particularly good device for subsidiary rooms such as utilities, en suites and wardrobes, helping them blend in with the interior scheme of the main room. (Try Häfele for flush or inset handles and concealed hinges.)

‘Framed’ Windows

The architect behind this extension project, Francesco Pierazzi, likens this design feature to creating a ‘bas-relief effect’ against the smooth render. But in addition to adding architectural interest, the projecting boxes or ‘frames’ serve a practical function — they protect the timber windows from the elements, ensuring longevity.

framed window white

Exposed Joists

Exposed ceiling joists are more often than not associated with period homes, however they can make a characterful addition to a modern self build, too.

exposed beams dining room

In this project designed by Emmett Russell Architects, the exposed joists make a particular design statement; the lines are continued outside, creating a brise soleil for this south-facing elevation. (Do bear in mind though that exposed timber joists will typically require a fire-retardant coating for Building Regulations purposes.)

Hidden Lighting

While bringing natural light into the home is a recurring theme, it can be easy to forget how important achieving a well-balanced artificial lighting scheme can be — many treating this element of the design as an after-thought, placing a few pendants and downlights wherever there’s space.

Consideration of your home’s lighting should be planned out well in advance, but some of this year’s architects have gone one step further and taken to introducing lighting within the fabric of the building.


Overall Winner of the Homebuilding & Renovating Awards 2015, Jake Edgley’s project (above), was no exception — in order to create the illusion of the glazed bridge (which connects the two halves of his London self build) floating when lit at night, he attached strips of LEDs to aluminium foils (which act as a heat sink) and fitted these to the ceiling edges. The result is truly spectacular to see. In fact, this proved so atmospheric that Jake took to lighting the entire home from the room edges, with no downlights in sight. That’s not to mention the dramatic handmade pendants in the double-height stairwells.

Transparent Spaces

Placing patio doors or glazing in adjacent or opposing walls has obvious benefits when it comes to introducing light to the interiors and creating a greater sense of connection with the garden. However, this design motif can also help reduce massing, making a building appear transparent and less ‘bulky’, as demonstrated by these remodelled and extended homes.

Transparent room architecture

Designed by Kate Stoddart Architect

Modern Bargeboards

The bargeboard has fulfilled both a functional role, protecting gable ends, and a decorative one (a trend revived by the Victorians) on the British home. This feature is now seeing a renaissance if this new build in the New Forest, designed by PAD Studio, is anything to go by — and not simply because of the strong aesthetic it lends to the gable end.

Modern bargeboard New Forest

“Traditionally, bargeboards were used to cover the exposed ends of roof purlins to protect them from weathering; from the rain, sun and frost,” begins architect Wendy Perring, Design Director of PAD Studio. “Here, the deep bargeboard protects the structure to avoid unwanted heat loss whilst preventing thermal bridging (cold being transferred into the home and damaging the substructure).

“Around the New Forest we often see ornate bargeboards on buildings and horror of all horrors, many plastic bargeboards stuck on gable ends for decorative effect. At PAD studio we are fascinated by looking at context as a source of inspiration. We don’t copy what has been used traditionally, rather interpret and reimagine for contemporary living and construction methods — we believe that this makes buildings rooted in their setting, time and context,” concludes Wendy Perring.

Return of the Loggia

Covered outdoor spaces allow the British summer to be enjoyed whatever the weather, plus provide opportunity to make a design statement. However, we’re no longer simply looking to create such spaces on the ground floor, but on the first floor too, where covered balconies or loggias, leading off the master bedroom for instance, are a happy indulgence.

Modern loggia PAD studio

This project by PAD Studio is case in point. “A wrapping wall protects, shelters and grounds this house whilst contrasting with the dark timber-clad box forming the building’s two storey element and floating roof. The deep roof overhangs reinterpret the vernacular detailing in a contemporary manner, whilst also providing a covered east-facing space for the owners to sit and enjoy their morning coffee,” explains Wendy Perring of PAD Studio.

Clay Plaster

Gypsum plaster and plasterboard are not the only choices when it comes to finishing walls and ceilings. Natural finishes are big news; they lend texture and interest to surfaces, plus materials such as clay plaster are non-toxic, offer a breathable surface, and act as an acoustic absorber.

Clay plaster interior pitched

The juxtaposition of exposed steel framework and clay plaster (Claywork’s Non-Mica Smooth top coat in ‘white’, shown) means this sizable living space feels homely rather than industrial. (Plus, there’s no need to paint the surface once applied.)

Dynamic Ceilings

If you’re designing from scratch, your new ceilings need not be boring. On this individual home, designed by Hudson Architects, the dramatic sloping roof cuts a dynamic shape against the sky. Inside this makes for a ceiling which packs an architectural punch, with the mix of ceiling heights adding further interest.

Dynamic ceiling kitchen diner beams

Feature Lighting

The world of domestic lighting has moved on leaps and bounds since the days of the solitary central pendant light or plethora of downlights. In this extension project, designed by Coffey Architects, inset LED lighting ‘channels’ to the ceiling and to the kitchen cabinetry have been introduced to dramatic effect.

Feature lighting recessed kitchen

The lighting here is an architectural feature in its own right, and very much integral to the fabric of the building (rather than an afterthought).

Connected Spaces

Open plan living, dining and kitchen areas are not for everyone. Connecting rooms – usually by means of partial wall divides, wide openings and inventive floorplans – is one clever means of introducing some of the benefits of open plan living (for entertaining, and being able to keep an eye on the kids, for instance), without the negatives (noise and an untidy kitchen on full show). It’s an ideal means of creating cosy pockets of living space and definition between different areas of activity, as these examples go to show.

conected spaces Hilton Barnfield Architects

The owners of this conversion project, designed by Hilton Barnfield Architects, have introduced a change in levels and punctuated the walls with small openings which serve as shelves, providing a connection between the living, kitchen and dining areas.

Louvred Openings

Fixed timber slats are an excellent means of providing privacy to openings, while still allowing light to flow into the interiors, as these examples go to show.


This project involved the conversion of three listed workers’ cottages into one, with the conservation officers insisting that the three separate door openings remain — Sean Peel, the architect/owner behind this project, turned the redundant doors into glazed openings, with internal timber louvres providing privacy from the road

Timber Cladding

Versatile, rustic and lending warmth, timber has become the go-to material for those seeking to bring texture to their projects — both inside and out. Whether it’s dark-stained pine to add contrast and help the home to blend in with its surroundings, rough sawn oak left to weather to a silver grey (below), birch, western red cedar, larch or plywood lining the walls, ceilings and floors to provide a warm and cosy space, timber cladding featured heavily among this year’s shortlisted homes.

Paired with traditional or modern furnishings, this raw material can easily be integrated into any home as these projects go to show.


Internal Glazing

Interior glazing is by no means an architectural innovation — this device has been used for years in commercial spaces and offices. However, self builders are now beginning to see the benefit of interior glazing in new homes: it can allow natural light and views to be ‘shared’ by adjacent rooms, while still offering a degree of soundproofing. (Pilkington’s Optiwhite™ is one product to look out for.)

Allowing light to reach into even the most central sections of the floorplan, incorporating internal glazing can offer glimpses of adjacent rooms and create the illusion of space and volume.


Whether you run a series of clerestory windows between rooms to allow light but maintain an element of privacy, or go big with large glazed panels running up to the ceiling (such as in this project by Graham Bizley, above), internal glazing is a great way of bringing light, and views, into the home.

Feature glazing interior

This self build, designed by Mailen Design, features a glazed partition between living area and office

Built-In Joinery

Wishing to shut clutter off from the rest of the house, it seems homeowners and architects are coming up with new solutions for introducing clever storage into their homes.


One of the most chaotic rooms in the house is often the kitchen, which sees all manner of activities taking place — from cooking to cleaning, eating and socialising. Given today’s trend for open plan kitchen diners however, it can be difficult to hide cooking mess when guests come round for dinner. Built-in units behind doors (such as in this project above from Phillips Tracey Architects) allows the homeowners to close off unsightly dirty dishes while entertaining friends and family.


A key staple of traditional architecture, the veranda appears to be making a comeback. From New England-style wrap-arounds to sheltered timber frame additions – allowing homeowners to enjoy the outdoors even on wintery days – the veranda has proved the perfect accessory to homes both contemporary and classic.


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