Ed and Caroline Gent have transformed their 1960s house into an eye-catching contemporary home covered in charming cedar shakes. The house has been remodelled and extended (replacing a former single storey garage), with triple glazing installed. Designed with family living in mind, the ground floor has a range of separate areas for different needs.
It was 12 years ago, back in 1998, that Ed and Caroline moved from a charming cob cottage to the one house in their quaint New Forest village – full of thatched roofs and distant Solent views – that didn’t fit in with the classic English scene. The house they bought had been built as a one-off in the 1960s by a Swedish architect and sat, rather incongruously, on a secluded triangular plot on the edge of the village, enjoying views over the Forest to the River Solent.
Despite not necessarily fitting in with everyone’s view of what houses should look like in this part of the world, Ed could see the appeal. “Back then we were just about to start a family. The old cottage was lovely but not terribly practical. It was small, for a start, and wasn’t very easy to keep warm. It was dark and we just felt we needed something far removed from the practical difficulties of living in a cottage of that type.”
After some years of consolidation, the bug to add extra bedrooms and create something more in tune with 21st century aspirations began to bite. Ed was also keen to make the house more energy efficient and create something a bit more contemporary.
Which is where Wendy Perring and Darren Bray from Perring Architecture & Design (PAD) come in. “PAD was recommended to me by a friend,” says Ed. “We met Wendy and Darren and were impressed by what we heard, so we decided to give them a go. We’re delighted with how it turned out.”
The brief, as architect Darren describes, was fairly specific. “We aimed to produce a two storey side extension that would feel very much part of the whole house rather than a bolt-on. We also wanted to remodel the interior and get plenty of light flowing through, and to build on the obvious parallels between 1960s design and the more contemporary take on Modernism.”
To that end, it was felt that nothing could be more sustainable than maintaining the existing structure (why waste all those perfectly good walls?) while at the same time improving the overall energy performance of the house itself, through the introduction of triple glazing, solar panels to provide hot water, and a superinsulated 300mm timber frame structure for the new extension.
“We did consider knocking down and starting again,” says Ed, “but we felt that the only way we were going to achieve something this modern was to maintain what was already here. We would never have got permission to build what we’ve ended up with from scratch in the New Forest.”
Enter Charles Finch, from main contractor CMF Builders in Lymington. “Ed and Caroline did the single most important thing they could have done on a project of this sort,” he smiles. “They moved out.”
Decamping to a nearby rental enabled Charles and his team – a well-organised builder of high-quality homes, by all accounts – to get stuck in without having to tread carefully around children’s toys or, indeed, children. “It just completely speeds up the process when the client moves out,” he says. “It enables us to get work done quicker; it’s easier and also a lot less stressful. There’s no tension whatsoever!” he laughs.
The project consisted firstly of demolishing the existing side garage and creating new footings and the substructure for the two storey extension, which was then built in a 200mm open-panel timber frame system insulated with Rockwool Flexi batts. The roof was then cut to match the existing and slated out to be weathertight, at which stage the existing gable end was knocked out to join the two parts of the property together. The changes to the roof shape are significant in making the extension look like an organic part of the existing house. Then some internal walls in the original house were removed to give a better sense of flow to the property, complete with new electrics, plumbing and, of course, those windows.
Triple glazing has had a mixed press since it was introduced from Scandinavia in the early 2000s, with many critics claiming that the added cost isn’t justified by the modest additional efficiency improvements. However, it certainly has big fans in everyone who was involved in this project, not least Ed. “We looked carefully at the prices and actually found it almost comparable to the expensive Krypton-filled double-glazed units that get to the same U-value,” he explains. “The inside glazing panel is warm to the touch and the soundproofing is phenomenal.”
PAD does have something of a soft spot for timber in its designs, and the single most eye-catching feature of this design is the cedar shake cladding. Ed and Caroline lived in Canada for a while which is where they first got the idea for it.“They obviously take a little longer to fit than conventional horizontal cedar boarding,” explains Darren, “but they do create an effect that’s both natural and contemporary, and the material itself is pretty cost-effective. There is actually a bit of a local precedent for their use in these parts – there’s an old church nearby that uses shakes – and so it’s not completely out of left field. One of the great things about cedar is that it contains plenty of natural oils that protect it for many years after use.” On the existing part of the house, the cedar shakes were simply fixed onto counter and cross battens over the brickwork.
While the former window positions were largely maintained – although many new windows are bigger and patio doors were installed in two places to increase the access to outside – the main picture window from the master bedroom, which enjoys farreaching views to the River Solent, is highlighted with a highly contemporary aluminium frame. The cutaway feel to the roof overhanging the new balcony (accessed from the master bedroom) also adds to the mix of asymmetry. Occasional highlights of painted render complete the transformation.
What’s just as clever as the thoroughly modern external makeover, however, is the sensitive approach to the interiors. Indeed, Ed and Caroline have embraced many of the original 1960s stylings, such as the internal doors and fabulous, precarious staircase. Ed has even maintained the original and rather funky 1960s thermostats for use with the electric underfloor heating system, which still works fine. Underfloor heating has been installed throughout the rest of the house including the first floor, where the warm water pipes were not installed on top of the joists, but into the timber subfloor — meaning that the pipes are in close proximity to the wooden floor covering.
“It has worked out really well,” comments Ed. “There’s a much better flow to the house, and we have more space and more light. It’s very cheap to run and has an external look that we can be proud of.”
Shingle or Shake?
Using shingles as a wall cladding has its roots in Queen Anne design, but is now most commonly associated with North American houses. There is in fact a branch of American house design called ‘Shingle Style’, which was popular in the late 19th century. The key difference between the shingle and the shake is that the shingle is sawn/engineered on both sides while the shake is only sawn on one side or even not at all (and split from the log on the other). As a result, shakes tend to be a bit thicker and also more random in their shape, creating a more rustic appearance.