Yew Tree Court is the unlikely name of this ultra-modern house, built against a hill in a tiny Gloucestershire village. Most of it is newly built by builder and property developer Gerry Walsh, who designed it with the help of his wife Carol (partner in interior design business Johnstonwalsh Ltd) to be as self-sustaining as possible, and to serve as a long-term home for them and their children, Fergus and Vicky.
“We would never have got planning permission for such a modern design under normal circumstances,” says Carol. “But we bought the site in 2001 with a half-finished house on it, so we have added a huge extension. It had been started 30 years before – also in a contemporary design – so the planners approved it.”
Their enormous house now covers three floors and is over 460m2 in area with five/six bedrooms, five bathrooms and a heated swimming pool on the ground floor. A lift has been installed to connect the three levels and there is also a carport and underground double garage. Built of Cotswold stone with cavity wall insulation and cedar cladding, the house has both solar thermal and photovoltaic (PV) panels on the flat asphalt roof.
“The extension that Gerry and I designed was influenced by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, because he liked to build ultra-modern properties in beautiful surroundings” says Carol. “But he also liked them to use the surrounding natural materials. Gerry and I have tried to do the same, so we used the local Cotswold stone.”
The Walshes bought the house on its three-quarters-of-an-acre plot for £250,000 and then spent a year gutting it, replacing its roof and extending it. “We had to dig pretty major excavations for the foundations, especially for the swimming pool and the underground double garage,” says Gerry.
Commenting on the use of cedar, he adds, “The building envelope was already here, and as the top floor consisted of three outer walls of timber frame construction, we kept them.”
Carol designed the Miele kitchen, which is pale green with black granite worktops and satin chrome handles. The worktop doubles up as a breakfast bar, as the family enjoy eating in a casual environment. She also designed all the bathrooms, using Mark Newson-designed products from Ideal Standard, with the exception of a Bathstore green translucent basin in the main family bathroom.
Built into the house are handmade coloured glass bricks. There are two in the first-floor cloakroom, back lit as a feature, and three in the external wall of the stairwell. These bricks were hand cast using moulds made from Cotswold stone and provide very unusual, striking features.
“We love our house with its position on the edge of woodland — its contemporary design works wonderfully well in such a setting,” says Carol. “When we finish the garden we hope we will have created something that contrasts with its surroundings but does not overwhelm.”