Mat and Polly Hilton have converted a redundant youth club near Exeter, into a characterful two-bedroom home. They wrapped the building in external insulation, with insulation added to the roof and floor to bring it up to modern standards.

Part of the roof was removed to create a south-facing courtyard. This fills the interiors with much-needed light and provides valuable outdoor space.

Project Notes

  • Name: Mat and Polly Hilton
  • Project: Youth club conversion
  • Location: Devon
  • Size: 115m2 + 28m2 workshop
  • Plot cost: £82,000
  • Build cost: £95,000 (£644/m2)
  • Value: £250,000 – £300,000

Mat and Polly HiltonHomeowners’ View

The design of the house is fantastic. It suits our lifestyle perfectly as the boundaries between outside and inside are very blurred. In good weather you can really enjoy it and in bad you feel all the elements but can still find a cosy place to relax. We wouldn’t change a thing. It’s certainly all we had hoped for and more. It’s a great house for entertaining and is very sociable.

Front Elevation of Converted Youth Club

exterior of converted youth club in Devon with white render and timber cladding

Behind the unassuming façade of this converted youth club lies a dynamic interior. The front elevation features a pared-down palette of white render and cedar cladding — the latter wraps around the side and rear of the building and acts as a rainscreen for the external insulation. The wide garage door is from Wessex Doors.

  timber clad living area in an open plan home with courtyard

The Mezzanine

man reaching to mezzanine level with bookcases in converted youth club home

Mat and Polly have put space beneath the vaulted ceiling to good use in the living room, creating a mezzanine level with built-in bookcases to one side and room for a spare bed to the other — the latter is used as additional guest accommodation when needed. Mat crafted the ladder and all the joinery in the room.

living room of converted youth club with alcoves and mezzanine and bookcases 

Semi-Open Plan Living Space

The living area is semi-open plan to the dining area, kitchen and circulation space, thanks to open doorways and internal ‘windows’ which punctuate the interior walls. The raised floor, however, provides definition between the spaces and makes the living area feel cosier (a carpeted floor also aids here).

wood clad corner wall with window between living spaces
office area in converted youth club

Circulation Space

The couple and their architect Rob Hilton considered squeezing in an additional bedroom, but instead decided to utilise the generous circulation space between the two bedrooms as a home office. Oak cladding has been introduced here, too.

bedroom with exposed roof joists


The sanitaryware was reclaimed and has been paired with timber cladding (crafted from off-cuts of oak left over from cladding the living spaces) and slate worktops, lending instant character to this new room. A large picture window from Velux provides plenty of light and a discreet view.

walk in shower with slate tiles


The kitchen units were handcrafted by Mat, who used salmon packing crates (which he’d collected in the hope of one day having a use for them). The units are supported on a steel framework.

kitchen units with crates made from packing crates
dining area with wood clad living room area
outdoor indoor space with bi-fold doors to courtyard garden

The Courtyard

The private south-facing courtyard was key to the creation of this home — it provides much-needed outdoor space, but also allowed large windows and doors to be designed in, to introduce light to the interiors. Two sets of 3.2m-tall IDSystems’ bi-fold doors allow the dining area and circulation space to be opened up to the courtyard too, creating a cohesive entertaining space.

The original concrete portal frame (which was cleaned up during the project) also dissects this space, providing a characterful addition to the cedar-clad and brick walls.

dining room opening to courtyard garden
wood clad walls and courtyard
courtyard garden to timber clad youth club home
courtyard garden of converted youth club home


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