Simon Shaw and Giuliana Cortese’s restoration and extension of a Grade II listed cottage is an inspiring example of how contemporary architecture can sit comfortably with the historic to create a fabulous 21st century family home.

However, the ingenuity of the design is also in how it acknowledges the architectural story that began way back in 1650 when the cottage was built. “We resisted the temptation to finish everything off perfectly — it’s otherwise hard to read the story of the house,” reflects Simon, who trained as an architect and designed the extension himself. “So, we’ve left areas of the original structure visible for people to see how the cottage was constructed.”

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The Project

  • Name: Simon Shaw and Giuliana Cortese
  • Build cost: £150,000
  • Build time: 1 year 3 months
  • Location: Buckingham
The extension is energy efficient

The extension was designed to be an energy-efficient shell with Kingspan insulation used internally and woodwool insulation boards on the exterior

The extension is four times as large as the 1950s one

Triple glazing was specified by Tanums Fonster to trap solar heat which is, in turn, redistributed around the house through a heat recovery system

An Ikea kitchen modified with bespoke features

The expensive looking kitchen only cost £8,000 as the couple used cheaper Ikea units with marble and stone worktops

A Carlo Scarpa inspired bridge connects the two halves of the house

The extension is built into a sloping site and connected to the main house by this Carlo Scarpa (Simon’s favourite architect) inspired bridge

Carlo Scarpa inspired bridge from the ground floor view

The glazed connecting section draws light into the heart of the cottage

The bedroom in the listed cottage

Exposed beams bring out the character of the Grade II listed cottage

The lounge

Simple, unimposing furniture like the shelves from Elfa Shelving, allow the stone flooring and period features to do the talking

kitchen diner in a listed cottage

Simon has maximised their living space while respecting the neighbours by stepping the extension back from the drive to avoid adverse views from the street, and protecting their natural light

The connection between the old and new parts of the house is seamless

Care has been taken not to exceed the ridge height of the original property by using a sloping roof made from maintenance free RoofKrete

The family’s new home has a fearlessly modern rear extension, designed to enhance the historical architecture of the 17th century cottage, but also differentiate the buildings; the transition between the two is a glazed link. “This is a visual link that connects and defines the old and the new, but also introduces much-needed light into the heart of the home,” Simon adds. The couple bought their cottage in July 2008 after deciding to move out of London with their daughter Francesca (and Scarlett-Grace who was due later that year). The cottage was a good size with four bedrooms and a 1950s extension. The interiors had not been updated for some 30-odd years and the Grade II listed cottage was also in a Conservation Area, but this didn’t put them off.

However, the existing extension was constructed in a single skin — it leaked heat, and was damp and cold. The cottage too was damp. The ancient wychert walls – a traditional Buckinghamshire material made from a mix of white clay and straw – had been plastered over with a synthetic coating, meaning moisture had become trapped within the fabric of the building.

Simon had a pre-planning meeting with the local planner and historic buildings officer to show them his 3D model of the two storey, contemporary rear extension. “I talked about the ethos behind how the building would work for us as a family rather than focus on how the building was going to look, and they were both very receptive,” he reflects.

In October 2009, Simon submitted his planning application but the planning officer he’d been dealing with went on long-term leave. It was January 2011 when the 1950s extension was finally knocked down.

The extension was constructed in timber frame using the stick-build method, whereby the frame is put together on site by hand. “I wanted it to be built as a contemporary version of the cottage’s timber frame,” says Simon, “but it was also easier to reconcile the wonky cottage walls by building this way.”

The entire project took 15 months to complete with Simon helping project manage and finishing works such as the tiling, decorating and some second fix joinery. “We now have the best of both worlds living here,” Simon continues. “We have the best of modern living and entertaining in our new extension, and the beauty and character of the historic cottage where we retreat to in the evenings.”

Simon and Giuliana’s resulting home also represents the next chapter in the architectural story of the village. Indeed, the judges of Aylesbury Vale District Council’s 2012 design awards were so impressed with the project, that it received a Highly Commended award and Simon was praised for his empathy.

“They said my scheme had a narrative and that was exactly what I wanted to achieve. Every piece of architecture has a story to tell and I wanted to introduce a narrative to our historic cottage with its new contemporary extension, so people who come here understand how the building was put together.”

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