Every building has a story to tell—and when we choose to extend or alter a structure, we are adding a new chapter to its tale. This was Studio Weave’s mindset as they set about adding a small timber extension to a stone cottage in Devon, on the southwest coast of England.
"This isn’t just an extension, but part of a process of custodianship of the land and the structure that has been lovingly built by past occupants," explains architect Je Ahn. "Over the decades, it will evolve—and so we created a mini master plan, and all our decisions were made for longevity and sustainability."
The clients, Tom Baker and Natalie Silk, are no stranger to big-picture thinking. They run the UK record label Eat Your Own Ears, and cofounded the Field Day music festival (although they’re no longer affiliated). "We purchased the cottage seven years ago from owners who had been there for over 35 years," says Natalie. "It allows us a base from where we can work and spend time with our local family and friends, in an area that we care about deeply."
Beyond a simple escape from city life, the couple’s broader ambition for the project, named Made of Sand, is to run artist residencies where creative friends can draw inspiration from the landscape. With this in mind, they wanted a self-sufficient extension that could be independent from the main cottage. They also sought a firm that could approach the project in relation to the surrounding landscape and embrace local materials and artisans—which they found in Studio Weave.
The result is a double-story annex, crafted from UK-grown Western Red Cedar and Iroko timber, that gracefully wraps around the existing stone cottage. It’s sympathetic to its surroundings, and the existing built form, yet clearly something new. "We wanted to create a distinction between the old and new, but at the same time not create an extension that was alienating to the surroundings," says Ahn.
The brief was driven primarily by how the space will be used—and it was essential that it could serve as an independent dwelling. As such, the extension is entered from a separate side entrance that leads into a utility and boot room, with an adjoining bathroom and storage area. This opens into a long, narrow kitchen with integrated cubbies lining the lower half of the wall, with a bedroom and en suite around the corner.
Upstairs lies a living room that doubles as a studio space—and it can also be accessed separately via an external staircase. "It’s about maximizing flexibility and adding the utility required of countryside living, which wasn’t adequately provided by the existing cottage," says Ahn.
Like the exterior—with its graphic timber cladding—the interior celebrates local materials and artisans. Almost every interior surface is clad in Douglas Fir panelling, which evokes a sense of craft with its a golden color and rich grain. The exposed structure and integrated, open storage creates a pleasing visual rhythm of intersecting vertical and horizontal elements in the self-contained extension.
On the ground level, this timberwork is complemented by the pamments—traditional floor tiles crafted by hand using local clays from Norfolk; while the upper-level studio and living space is entirely wrapped in timber from floor to ceiling.
"We worked with local joiners and carpenters and locally available materials so we didn’t have to ship materials from far away," says Ahn. "Sustainability was a really key factor, as was our collaboration with makers who are knowledgeable about the surrounding area. We wanted to use these traditional methods in a very modern way."
In the years to come, Tom and Natalie will continue to evolve the property and its garden to host various activities. They’re considering where planting beds could go, and thinking about transforming an existing turkey shed into a usable space.
"We carefully looked at the surrounding landscape and existing buildings in detail and identified areas of opportunity, and how they might unfold in the future," says Ahn. "The clients see this as a place they will continue to return to for the long term."
"Made of Sand is a place designed to share with others, including those requiring a creative recharge—not just our own family and friends," says Tom. "It’s a place we feel rested and revived at, and we’re looking forward to seeing others build relationships with both the landscape and local creative organizations in the area."
Builder: David Joyce Cob & Lime
Structural Engineer: Jon J Oates Ltd
Cabinetry: Farid Adhamy & Harry Bailey
Metalwork: Simon Connett Blacksmith
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