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Lincoln Miles' Modernist Grand Designs self build on the Isle of Wight

Multifunctional modernism on the Isle of Wight

Lincoln Miles and Lisa Traxler transformed a 70s home in an idyllic wooded glade into a peaceful 'house in the trees'

By Laura Snoad | 10 January 2017

For Lincoln Miles and Lisa Traxler, a 70s bungalow on the Isle of Wight just wouldn’t do. So the couple – both passionate about design and bored of the architectural status quo – reworked the property into a multifunctional family home.

From a distance, their Grand Designs Isle of Wight house in the trees could be mistaken for a Midwestern log cabin. Up close, it reveals a series of rising structures clad in contrasting materials – warm birch and corrugated fibre cement.

‘There were some experiments,’ says Lincoln. ‘The burnt-larch cladding and the horizontal stacking of the sills had never been done before.’

Grand Designs Isle of Wight house in the trees

From a distance, it could be mistaken for a Midwestern log cabin. Photo: Rachael Smith

The original bungalow and a new living space form two sides of an inner courtyard, completed by a wall of trees to the north and a studio-cum-garage to the west. Floor-to-ceiling glazed doors slide back, opening up the whole of the east wing ground floor – kitchen, living room and glass-roofed hallway.

A timber-framed tower, accessed through the kitchen, leads up to the first-floor bathroom and dressing room. Above them, a bedroom nestles in the treetops.

TV House Isle of Wight House in the Trees5

Lisa and Miles used a mixture of warm birch cladding and decking with corrugated fibre cement panels that they coated with yoghurt and cow dung to create an aged appearance for their Grand Designs Isle of Wight house. Photo: Rachael Smith

All this sailed through planning but met sterner opposition at home. ‘Lisa she didn’t want a “show-off box”,’ admits Lincoln. Instead, the linked spaces vary in age and style. ‘I’m glad we kept some of the old house,’ Lisa says. ‘It makes it feel connected to the Isle of Wight building’s history.’

TV House Isle of Wight House in the Trees5

Floor-to-ceiling glass in the kitchen brings the wooded surroundings indoors, giving views out to the water pool near the main entrance of the house in the trees. Photo: Rachael Smith

For Lincoln Miles and Lisa Traxler, a 70s bungalow on the Isle of Wight just wouldn’t do. So the couple – both passionate about design and bored of the architectural status quo – reworked the property into a multifunctional family home.

From a distance, their Grand Designs Isle of Wight house in the trees could be mistaken for a Midwestern log cabin. Up close, it reveals a series of rising structures clad in contrasting materials – warm birch and corrugated fibre cement.

‘There were some experiments,’ says Lincoln. ‘The burnt-larch cladding and the horizontal stacking of the sills had never been done before.’

Grand Designs Isle of Wight house in the trees

From a distance, it could be mistaken for a Midwestern log cabin. Photo: Rachael Smith

The original bungalow and a new living space form two sides of an inner courtyard, completed by a wall of trees to the north and a studio-cum-garage to the west. Floor-to-ceiling glazed doors slide back, opening up the whole of the east wing ground floor – kitchen, living room and glass-roofed hallway.

A timber-framed tower, accessed through the kitchen, leads up to the first-floor bathroom and dressing room. Above them, a bedroom nestles in the treetops.

TV House Isle of Wight House in the Trees5

Lisa and Miles used a mixture of warm birch cladding and decking with corrugated fibre cement panels that they coated with yoghurt and cow dung to create an aged appearance for their Grand Designs Isle of Wight house. Photo: Rachael Smith

All this sailed through planning but met sterner opposition at home. ‘Lisa she didn’t want a “show-off box”,’ admits Lincoln. Instead, the linked spaces vary in age and style. ‘I’m glad we kept some of the old house,’ Lisa says. ‘It makes it feel connected to the Isle of Wight building’s history.’

TV House Isle of Wight House in the Trees5

Floor-to-ceiling glass in the kitchen brings the wooded surroundings indoors, giving views out to the water pool near the main entrance of the house in the trees. Photo: Rachael Smith

Self-build advice from Lincoln Miles

What advice do you have for others planning their own build?

‘Get an imaginative architect and go on a massive journey. It will hurt and be quite emotional, so if you’re going to put yourself through that then the house really needs to lift your spirits every day once it’s finished.’

TV House Isle of Wight House in the Trees5

Lincoln, Lisa and Ellie relax in front of the exterior enamelled artwork designed by Lisa. Photo: Rachael Smith

How did you manage to get a realistic idea of the cost of the project?

‘Employ a quantity surveyor at the early stages and update them as your plans change. Try to eliminate unknowns. For example, our foundations rest in sloppy, elastic clay, so we spent £800 on soil analysis and bore holes. That information allowed the structural engineer to do his job quicker.’

You used a lot of unusual techniques, such as charred exterior cladding coated with yoghurt to stimulate lichen growth. How did you research these materials?

‘Adapt techniques and materials to your imagination. Ten years ago, I read about an ancient Japanese technique of setting fire to houses to protect them from rain and insects. Years later, an article about a chapel designed by architect Peter Zumthor, which used the carbon imprint of burnt tree trunks on cast concrete, triggered my memory. Inspired, I started researching burnt larch on the internet. Share your ideas with friends as you’ll get your research reflected back.’

TV House Isle of Wight House in the Trees5

A wall of unburnt birch that was left over from the exterior cladding helps create a Fifties atmosphere in the snug. Photo: Rachael Smith

Blending into the environment was important for the new build. What tips do you have for others wanting to do the same?

‘Have a strong vision of your materials palette and test them out. We took the burnt larch deep into the woods to look at how the shadows formed on the material in dappled light and how it looked in the rain. We needed to see whether it had the same emotional context as the woods.’

You worked to tight deadlines; what’s the best way of keeping everything on schedule?

‘Don’t keep changing your mind. Also, a good site foreman is vital – ours was brilliant.’

You’re an architect and Lisa’s an artist; how did you ensure the design suited both your aesthetic visions?

‘Think about your social, spatial and aesthetic requirements. We worked on the design for three years and we didn’t always agree. We had constant chats, which mattered a lot, particularly when there were just timber frames flapping about in the wind. Keep reassuring each other.’

The final word from Kevin McCloud…

‘I think of this building as a sort of weird storybook filled with experimental ideas and the autobiographies of Lisa and Lincoln.’

TV House Isle of Wight House in the Trees5

The kitchen mixes lime-green cabinets with freestanding furniture with an airy feel that makes it the centre of the new living space. Photo: Rachael Smith


What happened next for Lincoln Miles?

Click here to read a Q&A with the architectural designer behind the Isle of Wight ‘yoghurt house’


 

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