Building a striking modern home which works well against a backdrop of rolling countryside is not easily achieved. Yet that is exactly what Richard and Catriona Tyson have managed to do, with the help of an experienced architect and a high quality timber frame.

When the couple found a plot (with planning permission) in a beautiful location, with an interesting history, it was only right that whatever was to be built there made the most of the site. The finished home is not just a comfortable eco dwelling, but also a fine example of organic architecture.

Our judges and readers alike were impressed by this home in the Daily Telegraph Homebuilding & Renovating Awards 2013. It thus won the Readers’ Choice Award, Best Eco Home and the Timber Frame Award.

Project Notes

  • Name: Richard and Catriona Tyson
  • Build cost: £848,466 (£2,203/m²)
  • Build time: 1 year 1 month
  • Region: Gloucestershire

When Richard and Catriona bought their plot in Gloucestershire, it was home to a disused sawmill. Previous to this, the site had been occupied by the sanitorium in which George Orwell spent his final days being treated for tuberculosis (he subsequently died at University College Hospital in London).The Site

The site came with planning permission for a small, three bedroom bungalow, but the couple’s design for a much larger curved oak frame home impressed the planning department and was allowed.

The Brief

After their children had left home, Catriona and Richard had visions of living in an oak frame building. They approached Carpenter Oak & Woodland who, in turn put them in contact with architect George Batterham of Batterham Matthews Design Ltd.

They were very keen on open plan living, and having spent the last few years in a dark old vicarage, it was important that their home be light and spacious. They were also keen for the design to respond to the 200 acre woodland setting and offer sustainable, eco friendly living.


The contemporary concave design mirrors the dewdrop shaped lake to the front of the property. On approach, the front facade of stone has few windows which means emphasis is on the large canopied entrance.

The rear elevation is virtually all glass, and due to the open plan design this draws light throughout the building. The modern glazing is balanced by use of natural materials, such as the local stone and exposed beams for a look which is both futuristic and familiarly traditional.

The basement is blockwork and the external walls have hidden mortar to mimic dry stone walls. A sedum and lead roof contributes to the organic appeal of the home.

Inside, the living space includes cooking, eating, and sitting zones on the ground floor with a large balcony. There is also an office and a bedroom on this level which are cleverly separated and integrated at the same time thanks to use of internal glass and half-height walling. A further three bedrooms occupy the basement/lower ground floor level.

Although the space, light and exposed engineering screams modernity, their Arts & Crafts furniture really works in their new home.


Although the project ran smoothly with few construction related delays, there were a few hold ups due to the local fauna. After having a bat survey, they had to build what Catriona calls the ‘bat palace’ — a four room bungalow for the four species of bat the site attracts.

They also had to have a snail survey which led to the builders having an education session from a local wildlife welfare officer to tell them what to do if they came across certain snails.

The Build

The entire project – from conception to completion – took just three years, with the building work itself taking up a little over a year of that time.

The oak frame itself took just five days to erect, and speed can be attributed to the fact that the oak frame was a fundamental element of the design. George (who had lots of experience of working with oak frames) designed the home to suit the construction method, rather than designing the home with the frame being an afterthought.


With eco living high on the couple’s list of requirements, they specified the following renewables:

  • Solar thermal and photovoltaic panels
  • Open loop ground source heat pump which feeds through a borehole and runs through the lake at the front of the house
  • Woodburning stoves
  • Rainwater harvesting system
  • The whole house is also insulated with Rockwool insulation and has achieved Level 4 of the Code for Sustainable homes as a result of their efforts.

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