The British architecture firm Bennetts Associates is well known for their sustainable offices, tertiary buildings and theatre renovations. In fact, their most recognised design is perhaps the London’s Shaftesbury theatre with its rusted steel box form on the roof. Taking on the design of a private house in the quaint historic town of Cumbrian may seem out of the ordinary, but the result exudes the same level of quality as the rest of their work.


The home was designed in 2015 for a friend of the practice and from the outset, the architects aimed to ensure the building created a dialogue with the site. Previously a veggie patch for the neighbouring house, the plot was locally referred to as the “Old Vegetable Garden” and comprised of an open, sloping space with a backdrop of mature trees. The views of the countryside, treasured by the local community, were to be preserved and incorporated into the modern design.

“The client wanted all the conventional visual and functional attributes of modern design, such as large windows for the great view, having lived in an older property near London for many years.” architect Rab Bennetts tells Dezeen.


Looking in from the narrow, windy street the ageing stone walls give little indication of the modern family home that lines beyond. Locally sourced from rubble, the stone provides a reference to the retaining walls and terraces common in the region. However, when combined with the contemporary materials of zinc and the lightweight form of the home’s pavilions, a modern design aesthetic is achieved.

“The relationship between modern architecture and the local vernacular fascinates me; it has always seemed possible to me for modern design to complement older forms with the use of the right materials,” Bennetts explained. “Hence, using local rubble stone walls in a modern way allows a new building to be less hostile than, say, steel and glass, but doesn’t entail any kind of design compromise.”


The building is divided into pavilions with the ground floor partially set into the site to minimise the overall visible volume of the home. Two additional pavilions are sited at the rear of the garden and form the upper floor. It’s here the living and dining spaces take advantage of the sprawling English countryside.

“We made the two pavilions the same size so that neither was dominant; the living room is set farther back into the site for reasons of privacy and access to the terrace.”


Together with its form, the use of contemporary materials compliment the surrounding site. The heavy stone is lifted by the muted tone and subtle patina of the zinc. It’s clean lines and precise folds provide just the right contrast against the uneven, tactile nature of the stone. It’s this sympathetic approach that has provided the homeowner’s a modern home and the locals a building that nestles into their country town.

To see more of Bennetts Associates work click here.

Photography is by Brian Ormerod.