Builder/developer Adrian Mole and his wife Amy bought an 18th-century Grade II listed cottage that adjoined Adrian’s parents’ Georgian home in a charming Kent village.
It was too small, but there were a couple of outbuildings to the rear of the cottage, clustered around a courtyard.
The couple saw the potential that connecting the cottage and outbuildings could create. There was a workshop and a two-storey coaching inn, which had more recently been used as a stables — these offered plenty of useable space, but they needed a way to combine it all into one home.
- Name: Adrian and Amy Mole
- Build Cost: £111,000 (£645/m²)
- Build time: 2 years
- Region: Kent
On friends’ recommendations, the couple appointed London-based architect Glyn Emrys who came up with a novel way to join the three buildings together. Glyn had plenty of experience mixing traditional and contemporary design and came up with idea of an almost entirely transparent glass box to connect all the buildings together.
This solution created a great way to make all of the buildings feel like one comfortable home, whilst at the same time respecting the character of the original separate buildings. Fortunately, this was to the satisfaction of the listed buildings officer.
One of the key issues for the project itself was access. There was no chance of getting materials through the main house, and while there was a private road running alongside the long rear yard, it was separated out by a tall brick wall.
Adrian and Amy were determined to do the vast majority of the work themselves which worked very well, allowing them to work out the constructional details as they went along — particularly when it came to installing the transparent glass link, which involved Glyn and a few roped-in friends, assisted by a spider crane, delicately positioning the heavy, large glass panels into place, while Elliott Wood Partnership provided structural engineering advice. Sitting on modest steel framework and positioned in tiny hidden rebates, the glass is a masterstroke.
Adrian is certainly a man who doesn’t shy away from a few building dilemmas. The couple dug up the existing stones from the courtyard and dug down enough to install underfloor heating, which helps to make the whole glazed space feel very comfortable. Thanks to the transparent glazing – the joins consist of a UV-resistant thin silicone – it is the quintessential ‘outdoors/indoors’ experience with a consistent year-round temperature of 18–21°C.
Following the careful renovation of the cottage, the two existing outbuildings were refurbished, and the results are sumptuous, characterful living at its best. The smaller workshop has been artfully converted into a bedroom (complete with a mezzanine-level en suite) and a separate office. The roof cover has also been carefully removed, with 100mm of Celotex insulation fitted over the existing rafters, and replaced. Heritage rooflights and simply restored and painted floorboards make this a tranquil, simple piece of accommodation.
Converting the Stables
Best of all, the former stables have been converted too – although ‘converted’ somehow doesn’t feel like the right word considering the light-touch approach – into, on the ground floor, a dining space, with a kitchen and living area upstairs. And what a place this is. The existing blue brick floor has been removed, with underfloor heating fitted, and then replaced; the original timber boards on the walls of the stables have been sandblasted and coated in a mix of Briwax and white spirit, and the original hay feeding stations have been maintained and restored. It feels comfortable but somehow still like a stable.
Where possible, upstairs, existing floorboards have been retained and used in places to box in around windows and rooflights. An industrial-style kitchen completes the look and suits the space perfectly.
So, three buildings turned into one highly original and characterful home. Thanks to Glyn Emry’s innovative and yet as-simple-as-it-gets solution to joining them all together; Adrian’s can-do attitude and determination to get things done; and Amy and Adrian’s spirited quest to domesticate this beautiful set of buildings without losing any of its original charm. Not easy to do, but beautiful to look at.
What We’ve Learned
What are you most happy with?
The space we have created in the coach house (stables) is probably the bit we are happiest with. The existing (old) layout was too cramped for entertaining — as you know most people congregate around the kitchen area. On the ground floor we now have a great dining area with a fantastic utility room and of course a garage for the Mustang — upstairs we have a great entertaining area or just somewhere to sit down and relax.
What was the most difficult part of the project?
The glass link was the most challenging part of the project. Appointing myself as main contractor let me push my limits. I visited plenty of existing glass structures and consulted with Gary Elliott of Elliott Wood Partnership to get designs and ideas of how to make it all slot together with ease. We finally started to fit the glass on a cold December day in 2012, finishing the fitting the following Sunday — the only two dry days we had had for around a month.
What one tip would you pass on to others?
I believe that you need to stay true to the existing building. Keeping all the exposed brickwork, exposed woodwork and detail costs so much more than it would if you just plastered, painted and tiled over the top. Use the best possible materials you can and follow your heart, not your head (finances permitting!).