This Victorian cottage transformation has been achieved with sustainability and energy efficiency in mind.

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The Victorian cottage has been extended to create a spacious family home  Image: Will Scott

Built in 1900 and one of the oldest buildings in Harpsden, a village just outside Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire, Cherry Tree House is home to Henry and Jacqueline Gummer and their three children. The couple asked Guttfield Architecture to transform the property into a spacious energy efficient home. Originally in three parts, a cottage, stables and coach house, the property’s layout was awkward and the family wanted bigger rooms.

Historical reference

Rather than creating waste by demolishing all three parts of the house and removing all trace of the past, the practice knocked down the stables and coach house, which had been extensively altered during the 1960s and 1990s, adding new energy-efficient extensions in their place. ‘Keeping the cottage became a crucial part of the project,’ says lead architect Fred Guttfield. ‘It’s widely visible in the village, so maintaining its character was important,. The building’s design, particularly the height, width and proportions, inspired the form of the extensions. It’s almost as though two new cottages sit alongside the original, which restores the original three-part layout.’

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The living room double doors open to reveal a beautiful cherry tree Image: Will Scott

Planning permission for the project was granted in 2018, and the application was well received by the local authority. ‘No changes at were required as the project went through a very detailed pre-application process’, Fred explains. ‘Any issues were ironed out and the planners really liked the concept. There were consultation evenings with local residents that dealt with any concerns. I’d recommend that anyone else seeking planning permission goes through a similar process as it makes everything much simpler.’

Reworking the layout

The cottage’s front entrance was moved to a more central location and provides a view through the house from the front door, which was on the couple’s wish list of requirements. The cottage’s smaller rooms have been turned into a playroom, study and snug, while the extensions provide bigger entertaining and living spaces, as well as a kitchen with dining area. ‘Upstairs, Jacqueline and Henry’s bedroom suite links to the children’s bedrooms and to the first floor of the cottage,’ Fred explains. ‘The staircase is the focal point of the layout. On one side it opens to the kitchen, and on the other side the entertaining and living spaces.’

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The stairs are the focal point of the new layout. Image: Fred Guttfield

Keeping costs down

Every element of the project was designed and costed before any work began and this was crucial to managing the budget. ‘Swaps were made to save money’, explains Fred.  ‘Henry and Jacqueline asked for polished concrete floors but they are expensive and can be difficult to maintain, so it was agreed that large format concrete-effect tiles were fitted instead. They are less expensive and easier to look after. Similarly, using lots of bespoke floor to ceiling joinery can drastically increase costs, so this was kept to a minimum.’

Zinc was originally suggested for the roof but recycled aluminium represented a 20 per cent saving, which shaved off costs without impacting the project.

Elements of sustainability

Retaining the cottage helped to minimise the embodied energy of the project, as did building with the mainly timber construction and minimal concrete foundations made using a recycled cement mix.

A ground source heat pump supplies the heating and hot water and a photovoltaic array balances the electricity demand. The couple plan to go one step further by saving up for solar panels, which will be installed in the grounds to offset the electricity needed to run the air source heat pump.

The house is well insulated, has triple glazed windows and doors and a generous roof overhang to eliminate excess solar gain. On the exterior, cement board cladding is interspersed with locally quarried knapped flint installed by a local craftsperson.

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The remodelled and extended house provides plenty of space for the family Image: Will Scott

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