Chris and Gunna Chown took on a tiny tin shed in North Wales that no one else knew what to do with and transformed it into a charming country cottage.
When Chris and Gunna bought a 29m² tin shed without planning permission in 1999, it could be said they were taking a risk. As Chris explains, “the planning authority here is notoriously strict, having restrictive policies on increasing the volume of existing buildings by no more than 33% — so there appeared to be no chance of turning it into a home suitable for modern living.”
The tin shed in question – Talarfor – had little or no architectural merit, however it was located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the Llyn Peninsula, with stunning panoramic views over the whole of Wales to the south. It had come onto the market in 1995 however due to planning refusals (prospective buyers simply wanted to demolish the existing structure) it remained unsold.
Chris and Gunna, however, had other ideas. “My suggestion was to create a ‘rear extension’ to the property that would be invisible, being dug underground into the mountainside — covered with a grass roof. I’d upgrade the existing structure and clad it in local stone and add a Welsh slate roof, giving the appearance of a traditional cottage, and link the two parts of the new home with a glass atrium. The planners loved the idea.”
So Chris and his brother set to. This was very much a project based around reusing as much of the existing as possible, and augmenting it in a sensitive way. The original cottage has retained its timber frame and all of its internal tongue-and-groove timber, which Chris hand-stripped and re-stained. Despite its tiny footprint, the ground floor had been compartmentalised into four very small rooms, and so Chris opened the whole thing up into one kitchen/dining/living space which is now exceptionally light.
The timber frame building was then insulated and clad, with the help of a local stone-waller, in stone sourced from the site. “A new roof was installed at a level and pitch slightly higher than the original to allow for an upper floor, used as a children’s bedroom,” explains Chris. The new home takes great advantage of the spectacular views, and Chris is quite rightly delighted with his achievements – “It’s perfect for us. We’re delighted to have saved a local building and added to it in a way that’s both energy efficient and, perhaps more importantly, has very little impact on the local area.”