Reluctant to lose their large family-friendly garden by moving, Mohini and David Gray added a striking, light-filled extension to their ordinary 1990s estate home.

When Mohini and David Gray’s youngest son, Thomas, was born three years ago – joining Dominic, nine, and Maïa, 15 – the couple were faced with the question that will be familiar to many families: did they move to gain more space, or improve their existing home?

The Grays (David is Professor of Immunology at the University of Edinburgh while Mohini is a Consultant Rheumatologist) bought their detached house on a generous plot at Eskbank 11 years ago. They made various improvements to the house over the following years, with a focus on improving the inside-outside connection and the internal flow between rooms.

“We knew if we moved we’d have to compromise on the garden,” Mohini says. Instead, the couple consulted architect Craig Amy. Their brief was for an extension that would create a new garden room along with an additional guest bedroom with en suite and study. Crucially, the couple wanted to orientate the study and garden room towards their favourite beech tree. “This tree and this view are very important to us,” says Mohini.

Craig managed to come up with a design split in three parts that has an intriguingly graphic form: visualise a rectangle (the garden room) and an angled ‘box’ (the study) slotted within a larger triangle that forms the backbone of the extension. The triangle creates a bay window seating area on one side of the garden room – which is open plan to the new family/play room and kitchen – and a guest bedroom on the other. The garden room slots into this triangle, creating the high-level clerestory windows that pull light deep into the back of the extension.

The six-month build began on site in April 2010 with David in particular enjoying being on site. “When you see the project developing, you feel you’ve been part of the process,” he reflects.

The extension is clad in FSC certified Western redcedar, with windows and doors in meranti, while the roof is finished in a dark-grey Sarnafil membrane. The hues of the timber are a perfect complement to the red brick of the house. “The Western redcedar is varnished, not stained; it’s very durable,” says David, “and very beautiful. When I first saw it, I thought the extension looked like a modern log cabin in the forest, and when you think about it, that’s actually what it is.”

Internally, the dynamic shapes are expressed by angles in the slate hearth (with Hwam stove), the cherry wood shelving, and in the ceiling, all of which adds to the drama of the split-volume spaces. The existing utility room was removed to create access into the garden room and to form the larger family/play room, while the new en suite and utility room were created by ‘borrowing’ space from the existing workshop.

The result is an exciting space that’s simply flooded with light. Both the garden room and study are orientated towards the tree, with glazed doors sliding back in the former to reveal an open corner onto the timber decking. The ground floor now flows between the various zones, with long views linking the spaces. “It’s a very relaxing space,” says David. “There’s plenty of space for the family without us all being on top of each other. It feels like we can breathe now.”

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