Contemporary Timber-Clad Annexe

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Chris Swales utilised his own skill and experience to create a comfortable and space-efficient home for his parents
Exterior of timber-clad contemporary self-build
Deck of of timber-clad contemporary self-build
Open living area of of timber-clad contemporary self-build
Open living area of of timber-clad contemporary self-build
Open living area of of timber-clad contemporary self-build

As an architect, it was only natural for Chris Swales, from CS Consulting, to want to create the annexe that would border his own home and provide a new home for his mother and father.

Fact file

Project: Self-build

Style: Contemporary

House size: 83m²3m


Project cost: £150,000

Project cost per m2: £1,807

Construction time: 8 months

Throughout the design process Chris focused on his parents’ wants and needs, whilst accommodating the planners’ requirement to remain within the footprint of a pre-exiting barn. The scheme consists of a combined living, dining and cooking area, along with two bedrooms (one of which is intended for visiting grandchildren).

Clever design details were included to enhance these zones. The open plan area has a huge roof light over the dining space, which floods the room with early morning sunlight.

Working with the land

Early into the project Chris realised that piled foundations would be necessary due to the active clay conditions. This discovery, and the fact that the delivery area was 80m away from the construction site, led to the hunt for a build method that would minimise the use of wet construction materials.

The solution was a Surefoot piling system, which saw steel pipes driven into the ground at various angles with portable power tools, similar to the roots of a tree. A total of 15 piles were constructed in 5 days. This technique held many advantages. Not only did it avoid the use of cement or water and heavy machinery, it was also cheaper and able to bear more weight than conventional piles.

The walls were constructed in-situ from structurally insulated timber panels made up of a series of studs. Aluminium foil covered PIR rigid insulation fills the cavity, which is encapsulated with OSB on both faces.

The house is exceptionally warm in winter because of the high levels of insulation in the floor, walls and roof. Ventilation is maximised is maximised in Summer by opening the large amounts of glazing. The house is therefore comfortable to live in all year round.

This relatively lightweight build system was well suited to the suspended floor raft but also made deliveries, which required manhandling over a distance of some 70 metres, easier to deal with.

Externally, a rain screen of smooth faced fibre-cement cladding was laid with an approved breather membrane to create a void for air circulation and services. The aluminium gutter was then cleverly concealed within this.

 Maximising potential

One of Chris’s priorities was to make the most of the useable space within the relatively small footprint of the dwelling. To do so, he decided that the circulation area should be minimised. As such, there is only one passage, which also functions as a bathroom screen.

This means that when the door to the living area is closed the bathroom ingeniously becomes an ensuite for the main bedroom. The total circulation area in the property is therefore only 2.6% of the total of most conventional properties.

To maximise space and comfort even more, Chris created an extended deck on the eastern façade of the home made from recycled materials – ensuring it was well protected from nature’s elements. This was achieved by erecting a large aluminium pergola with adjustable roof louvre blades and a concealed rainwater drainage system, making it a year-round pleasure.

The feeling of inside-outside living is exceptional thanks to the large bifold doors leading onto the decking and a full-height sliding window overlooking the garden. The house is called Xanadu, meaning an idyllic place, originating from a poem by S. T. Coleridge.

Local influences

Looking at surrounding residential properties in the area, which were mainly timber-clad, inspired Chris to finish the property with a similar black fibre-cement cladding. The roof is covered with a complimentary fibre-cement product, adding a smooth finish to the overall look of the design. The gables are trimmed with yellow aluminium channels which helps to give each of the facades a more defined look.

Taking stock

Funds were managed very carefully throughout construction and the scheme remained within budget, despite the high quality of fittings. When reflecting on the success of the project, it is clear that both Chris and his family are delighted. The new dwelling created a sense of wellbeing as soon as they moved in and the end result is even better than they envisaged. 

1 comment

Posted on

This is a great little house which has turned so many constraints into an unrivalled success. Its small footprint belies a feeling of spaciousness and simple elegance. Materials have been cleverly and economically used, the detailing is impeccable, and it fits beautifully into its context. What a wonderful gift for aged parents - Xanadu indeed - and would certainly be a worthy winner if all these factors are taken into account.

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