A Black Gable Farmhouse Harvests its Own Electricity, Heat, and Water

Built of prefabricated cross-laminated timber panels, this barn-inspired home blends into the rural landscape.
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Handcrafted details, energy-efficient principles, and a thoroughly contemporary interior combine at the Friends Lab, a barn-inspired home designed by Madrid-based AMPS Arquitectura & Diseño. The clients are a young family who wanted a house they could share with friends and family on their farm in southern England.

"We were on the same page regarding a sustainable approach to life, and they believed we could deliver something different from the rest of the practices they had worked with in the past," says AMPS founder Alberto Marcos, who met the clients through the school their children attended.

Located in the historic English village of Bentworth, Friends Lab is a contemporary take on the local agricultural typology.

In addition to a spacious, sustainable home, the clients requested a residence that would blend into the landscape. Marcos took inspiration from the farm’s blackened timber buildings in designing a long, gable structure enveloped in black-stained Accoya timber batten screen cladding.

"Built with a double skin, the exterior comprises a permeable black-stained accoya timber batten screen, camouflaging the house as though an agricultural building. The roof and facades stretch along the same plane, in a simple and clear gesture," note the architects.

Sustainably sourced Accoya timber battens extend from the roof to the walls.

The home’s likeness to the local agricultural typology, however, is limited to its exterior appearance. To achieve high levels of energy efficiency, the design team constructed the building with prefabricated panels made of cross-laminated timber. These large-scale wood panels not only greatly enhanced the structure’s thermal properties, but also considerably reduced the build time.

The master bedroom on the west side of the house includes a cantilevered marble desktop that stretches the length of the window wall. The room looks out over a "future secret garden."

Light screens can be deployed to shield the home’s large expanses of high-performance glazing. The screens are digitally controlled by a central system that also manages the home’s other functions such as lighting and heating.

"The Friends Lab is very close to carbon neutral," explains Marcos. "The 30 kW solar array and the double ground-source heat pump also power the rest of the buildings on the farm. The farm can practically operate with its own resources, including a borehole with a treatment plant to supply water."

Pergaminho limestone flooring is used indoors and out. The home is also equipped with underfloor heating powered by a ground source heat pump.

In contrast to the black timber exterior, the interior is bright and full of light-toned materials including limestone and lime-based mineral micromortar (Mortex) floors, warm timber surfaces, and colorful tiles and furnishings.

An open-plan living/dining/kitchen area occupies the heart of the home and opens up to the outdoors on the north and south sides. Chestnut lines both end walls.

The dining table by Piet Hein Eek is complemented by a series of colorful Eames chairs.

"The house has been conceived as having two levels," notes the design team. "The first one, up to 7.2 feet—the human level reachable by hand—makes use of earthy textures to be experienced through touch, like Mortex or chestnut, and defines the height of doors and windows. The next layer is the level of air—the ceilings bathe the house in natural light with their skylights and pitches."

The half bay where the dining space is located opens up to views of the southern fields and provides access to raised vegetable beds.

As with the facade’s meticulously installed batten screens, fastidious attention to detail was given to all the rooms, which are dressed with custom elements—from a contemporary tree sculpture to bespoke Mortex basins in every bathroom.

Artists were brought in to create a tree sculpture that rises above the two elevated sleeping spaces with integrated storage and desks underneath. The bedroom also has a large mirror with a ballet bar.

All of the furniture was constructed with 100% FSC-certified chestnut. Storage is integrated into the side of the stairs.

The light-filled interiors seamlessly connect with the landscape via sliding glass doors that open up to outdoor terraces "that act like small, private islands anchored within the outdoor world," say the architects.

The second children's bedroom features a single elevated loft. The timber storage wall draws the eye upwards.

A wall of chestnut lends warmth to the east-facing bedroom that extends into the landscape with a "meditation space." The tatami bed structure and beside tables were designed by the architects in Spanish walnut.

All the living spaces and bedrooms enjoy access to outdoor terraces on the north and south sides. The terrace floors are made of bush-hammered Pergaminho limestone to emphasize a seamless indoor/outdoor connection.

The constant connection with the surrounding woods and fields has become Marcos’s favorite aspect of the project. "It opens to the landscape and is in touch with the outdoors from a very comfortable, human interior," he says.

Each bathroom in the home has a different colored set of encaustic tiles from MOSAIC factory. Pictured here in the master bath are FLOS Foglio Wall Scones in Steel by Tobia Scarpa with a custom mirror designed in memory of the great Italian architect Carlo Scarpa.

The bespoke tubs and basins are handmade and finished in light gray Mortex that matches the Pergaminho limestone floors.

All bathing areas are naturally lit with large skylights. The black fixtures are by Iconico.

Friends Lab floor plan

Friends Lab elevations

Friends Lab section

Friends Lab site plan

Related Reading:

18 Black Gable Houses With Seriously Witchy Vibes

A Black Gable Home Opens Wide to the Appalachian Landscape

Project Credit:

Architect of Record: AMPS Arquitectura y Diseño / @estudio_amps

Builder/General Contractor: Olive Tree renovations

Structural Engineer: Chapero & Marsh

CLT Engineering: Eurban

M&E Engineers: CBG

Civil Engineering: Infrastructs 

Lighting Design: Nur Lighting

Interior Design: AMPS Arquitectura y Diseño

Joinery: Gabilondo SL

Indoor Tree: Unai Gabilondo


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