The Story Behind The Design
Baffle House is an exception to the rule with a pronounced emphasis on the engagement with the garden and a need for a place to house the occupant’s unusual collection of botanicals.
"The dark, slender materiality of Baffle House’s rear extension is a radical departure from the brick and shingle cottage frontage."
A tightly constrained site provided Clare Cousins Architects with the challenge of designing a rear extension that wouldn’t compromise the garden footprint. The compact contemporary addition may be small in scale, however, it allows the inhabitants to be immersed in the artfully landscaped garden and escape the bustling urban environment.“In order to maintain the building’s modest footprint and maximise space for the garden, the decision was made to sacrifice one of the bedrooms from the existing plan”, explains architect Oliver Duff. Fortunately, the open-minded client was receptive to the architect’s less conventional approaches to the project constraints such as locating the kitchen garden in the front to meet the needs of more living space in the rear.
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The client’s trust in Clare Cousins Architects continued through to the materials of the contemporary volume. “The dark, slender materiality of Baffle House’s rear extension is a radical departure from the brick and shingle cottage frontage,” says Oliver. The integrated steel baffle screen serves a dual purpose of distinguishing between the new and the old and providing a passive environmental solution.The sculptural form of the steel baffle screen is subtly attached to the building in front of the expansive glazing. This gives the impression of an effortlessly floating frame that is visually striking from inside and out. Its sharp, thin lines and geometric openings regulate the northern light that penetrates into the interior, explains Oliver.
"This wasn’t to be a streamlined garden. It was also a step away from our usual plant choices."
Further considered interventions to the original part of the building to gain light and open up views to the garden spaces was taken. Although a simple materials palette of pale oak timbers and neutral colours ran consistently throughout the old and new interiors, it was the garden that provided the thread connecting the two eras of architecture to create a sense of familial affection.Oliver explains a close collaboration with Eckersley Garden Architecture resulted in an “immersive scheme where the interface between house and garden is fluid”. Landscape designer Myles Broad says the focus from the outset was to create a leafy, overgrown garden that draws you from the interior outdoors.
The design of the courtyard also needed to accommodate two lively Weimaraners, explains Myles. “There was never going to be mulch or lawn. Instead, we laid down gravel stone as a mulch and Honeycomb bluestone paving with Dichondra repens Kidney Weed growing between. This helped to create a dog proof outdoor space while still achieving the leafy aesthetic”.The courtyard’s unusual planting palette emerged from the client’s small, yet, rare collection of cacti and succulents. “This wasn’t to be a streamlined garden. It was a step away from our usual botanical choices”, says Myles who found pleasure in creating a garden scheme that embodied a sense of quirk and character.
As a landscape designer, it was refreshing for Myles to work with a client who was open to using unusual plants like the South American Silk Floss tree with its prehistoric thorns and showy hibiscus flowers. “The result was a little unexpected, but very cool,” he says. The constraints of a tight urban site may have proved to work in their favour as the collaboration between architect, landscape designer and occupant has resulted in a flawless renovation ensconced within an old-world garden.