Cherry Tree House: A farmworker’s dwelling transformed into a family home

Cherry Tree House: A farmworker's dwelling transformed into a family home

Guttfield Architecture is a small, award-winning RIBA Chartered Architects Practice completed the transformation of the Victorian farmworkers’ cottage in Harpsden, Henley-on-Thames into a stunning low-energy family home that celebrates views of the clients’ favourite tree, sloping gardens, and countryside beyond.

To deliver a home fit for modern family life, Guttfield Architecture removed the poorly constructed additions and delivered a new extension that sits alongside the Victorian cottage. This building replicates the simple and uncomplicated form of the cottage, materials add articulation and texture to allow a complimentary visual distinction between the old and the new. At ground floor level, selected panels of the elevation are picked out in locally quarried knapped flint to add tactility to the façade and were installed by local craftsman Ally Fincken.

Extensive research of the existing buildings on site revealed there were three parts to the original dwelling – cottage, stables and coach house.

The cottage remained largely unaltered but the stables and coach house were extensively altered during the 1960s and 1990s, compromising their layout, appearance and structure and making them unsuitable for further adaptation. To remedy this and deliver a home fit for modern family life, the team removed the poorly constructed additions and delivered a new extension that sits alongside the Victorian cottage.

Retention of the cottage helps minimise embodied energy in the new home, as does the lightweight, largely, timber construction with minimal concrete foundations using a recycled cement mix. A ground source heat pump provides all heating and hot water for the house and a photovoltaic array will balance electricity used by the house and heat pump. The building is super-insulated, with triple glazed windows and doors and a generous roof overhang to eliminate excess solar gain.

The extension replicates the simple and uncomplicated form of the cottage. Materials add articulation and texture to allow a complimentary visual distinction between the old and the new. The lower storey of Cherry Tree House is finished with light grey cement board cladding. Joints are carefully set out to align with the window openings, to compliment the roughcast render of the original cottage.

At ground floor level, selected panels of the elevation are picked out in locally quarried knapped flint to add tactility to the façade and were installed by local craftsman Ally Fincken. The dentile detailing from the cottage has been referenced on the upper story of the new home with vertical strips of larch adding interest and depth to the façade whilst casting similar shadows to the dentiles themselves. On the south side of the building, two balconies have been added providing a perfect place to take in the views of the surrounding countryside whilst shading the larger window openings below.

The owners, Henry and Jacqueline Gummer, said “We love the flexible zones within the house which are perfect for family life, enabling us to spend time together and apart when we need it! Our favorite part of our home is that it’s bursting with natural light - I don’t think we’ll ever tire of coming down the stairs in the morning to take in the view. We are so happy to call Cherry Tree House our home, it’s a beautiful, highly original piece of Architecture that is a perfect blend of our personalities and is so much more than what we expected when we started this journey.”

The interior has been transformed into a series of flexible family living spaces on the ground floor including a snug and family room in the renovated cottage which links through to a library and living space in the new extension. These lead onto an open plan kitchen diner featuring a round plywood dining table and curved banquette designed by Guttfield Architecture.

A cork clad staircase is designed to appear like it has been pulled out of the central wall and allows access to the first floor bedrooms and master suite. The roof form of the extension is derived from the roof of the cottage, and it is kept open internally to provide a series of unexpected vertical volumes within the bedrooms and bathrooms.

The Clients stipulated a very challenging budget, and the project was successfully completed for a very economical £2,300/sqm including the ground source heat pump, fixtures, fittings, finishes, joinery, sanitary ware, appliances, lighting, carpets, and landscaping.

According to Fred Guttfield, Director Guttfield Architecture, "Instead of wastefully demolishing all of the buildings and erasing the site’s history, it was key to our approach to retain the original cottage and make it the inspiration for the new architecture on the site. As a result, the old and new come together harmoniously with each other and the landscape. All rooms on the south side of the house have been designed to enjoy views of the Cherry Tree and Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty beyond.”

Cherry Tree House, Harpsden, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire - Front of house

The front of house in the morning and evening.

View from living room onto the clients favourite cherry tree.

The cork clad staircase and bespoke dining table.

Cherry Tree House, Harpsden, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire - Open plan family kitchen space and bespoke dining table

The open plan family kitchen space and detail view of the tiles in the kitchen.

Cherry Tree House, Harpsden, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire - Knapped flint facade detailing on the back of the house

Close up of connection of cottage to new extension and the quoined knapped flint facade detailing on the back of the house.

The master bedroom with balcony, the dressing room connecting to the master bedroom, and the master bedroom en-suite bathroom.

Guttfield Architecture is a small, award-winning RIBA Chartered Architects Practice formed in 2011. Based in Berkshire, they work across the South East and London, helping clients create beautiful contemporary homes. Their portfolio includes new buildings and extensions designed for a variety of challenging, protected and sensitive sites. Their buildings are designed to be practical, low-energy and long-life.

Images: Will Scott / Guttfield Architecture