The design was to combine privacy and seclusion with openness to the wider landscape. The inspiration was both literal, in the stacked timber in the yard opposite, and literary, in the 18th century erotic architectural treatise and novella, ‘La Petite Maison – An Architectural Seduction’ by Jean-Francois de Bastide. Clients otherwise uninterested in architecture could be drawn into dialogue with it through fictional narratives.
The project converted a former Dairy into a ‘Petite Maison’ with a small pool on an 850-acre Estate in Somerset. In practical terms, the space was to be re-planned; lean-to sheds removed, and an extension added to create a total of five bedrooms, three bathrooms, more generous circulation space with rooms of better proportions. What was originally to be speculative became a retreat for the client; a place to escape the main estate. The design set out to appear ‘un-designed’.
Everything behind the retaining wall on the upper level can be flooded with water. The construction alternates interlocking layers of oak and laminated glass blocks. The glass produces an eerie, filtered light, and the dematerialising effect of refraction and reflection create an aquatic underworld. The way the light moves around the house over the course of the day draws the user through it. The walls create the effect of lightweight construction internally, while the exterior appears as heavier, rougher and rustic.