Five Tile-Clad Towers Forge a Fantastical Home Inspired by Hop Kilns

The low-energy home is a bold riff on Kent’s traditional oast houses.
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With its cluster of roundel towers and conical roofs, this countryside home for a family of four in Kent evokes the local vernacular of 18th-century oast houses—buildings once used for drying hops in beer brewing—but its design and construction are anything but traditional.

"The clients were very open to pushing the boundaries of designing an innovative house," says project architect Lucy Moroney of ACME, the London-based firm behind the home, dubbed Bumpers Oast.

Located in the protected countryside of Marden, the nearly 2,500-square-foot Bumpers Oast house pays homage to the Kentish vernacular.

Though similar in form and built with local trades, Bumpers Oast deviates from traditional structures with a new material palette and construction methods, including prefabrication, that helped the home achieve passive house standards of airtightness. The use of a heavily insulated timber frame, instead of the brick walls traditionally used for hop kilns, was key in achieving Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4.

Bumper Oast’s frame was built with thick timber modules topped with prefabricated cones craned into position.

Each roundel is topped with a skylight to bring in daylight, while taking advantage of the stack effect for natural cooling.

"The process of construction was very much an exchange between the contractors and the architect, working within the palette of their traditional craft, and then pushing this to manifest a design which is a contemporary interpretation of the traditional oast," explains Moroney. "Although the house is highly bespoke, we developed simple and clean details, which worked with the nature of the geometry."

The home’s facade is covered with over 41,000 Kent-style tiles that were locally produced with traditional craft skills in six shades—from dark red at the base to light gray at the top.

All of the tiles above the eaves level were individually cut.

The highly insulated home is fitted with triple-glazed windows throughout, as well as 150-mm-thick Celotex insulation.

The design process began with intensive research into the local vernacular. The architects began the design with four roundel towers with proportions based on a traditional oast. This cluster was then pulled apart to create a radial plan with a central triple-height space that connects all the towers and provides views of the surrounding countryside.

The dining room is set in the center of the triple-height space at the heart of the home. A replica of the Oval dining table by Saarinen is paired with Wishbone chairs by Carl Hansen and Sons. Davide Groppi’s Moon pendant lamp hangs above.

"In their first home, the client’s life centered around the kitchen table," says Moroney. "The kids would do their homework there, it was where you’d sit to have a cup of tea as a guest, and it was where the postman popped his head in to deliver parcels. Having a space for family gathering at the heart of the house was key to the design. The triple-height atrium is very much that area. All the private and functional spaces in the house open into this feature."

The materials and furnishings accommodate and complement the home’s curved geometry. Ploum sofas by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec lie in the living room and sitting rooms.

The sweeping, curved oak staircase with an oak balustrade leads to the first floor, which—unlike the ground floor’s polished concrete flooring—features herringbone oak parquet floors. Underfloor heating is powered by a 12kW ground-source heat pump with 600 meters of pipe buried in the garden.

"All window openings have reveals formed by the walls folding into them, which increases the light refraction coming into the rooms," explain the architects.

"The form of this building is radically different from its predecessor, and was only made possible thanks to a visionary client and an exhaustive research project into the local vernacular," says Friedrich Ludewig, director at ACME. "This house can be both contemporary and proud of its Kent identity."

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"Each of the bedroom spaces is split level, which creates a play space for the children on the lower level that can later be adapted for study. The master bedroom is designed with a dressing area in the upper space that opens onto an en suite," note the architects.

The bedrooms on the upper floor are all accessed via a private set of helical stairs with curving plywood balustrades, making these rooms feel like "secluded treehouse-like retreats." Each bedroom has an en suite bathroom.

To mimic the exterior, the architects covered the interior of the roof cones with overlapping plywood shingles to create a continuous surface.

A peek inside the downstairs bathroom, which is covered in mosaic tiles that echo the microcement finish used throughout the home. "As it is a north-facing room, matte and gloss finishes have been employed to play with reflections from sunlight as it enters the space," note the architects.

Bumpers Oast ground floor plan

Bumpers Oast first floor plan

Bumpers Oast second floor plan

Bumpers Oast section

Related Reading:

This Tiny Cabin Is Clad in 3D-Printed Planter Tiles

A Vancouver Home Dazzles With a Tile Facade That Looks Like Falling Confetti 

Project Credits:

Interior Design: ACME

Builder/General Contractor: Harry Barnes

Structural Engineer: AKT

Landscape/Lighting Design: ACME

Cabinetry Design/Installation: Masson Joinery

Environmental Consultant: Etude

Planning Consultants: Barton Willmore


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