Mondrian-inspired new build in Somerset

Mondrian-inspired design meets open-plan living in this well-considered new-build.

By Hannah Fenton | 6 October 2017

Mondrian-inspired design meets open-plan living in this well-considered new-build.

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When Max and Diana Aiken spotted a drab Fifties bungalow on a tricky plot of sloping land in the greenbelt near Bath, Somerset, they visualised a very different building – a Modernist light-filled and imaginative two-storey dwelling. The interior, too, would be creative and contemporary. ‘We wanted spaces not rooms, divisions not walls, and vertical and horizontal surfaces to display art, sculpture and ceramics,’ recalls Diana.

It was an ambitious plan. The new-build had to comply with key planning issues that meant it could be no higher or larger in volume than the existing unprepossessing bungalow. The couple also wanted it to fit happily in its rural surroundings. The solution was to build a steel and timber-framed house over multiple floor levels that is clad in frake hardwood, which, over time, turns a subtle silvery grey like the lias limestone of local buildings.

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The living accommodation – a large open-plan and split-level space with a studio at one end and book-lined snug at the other – is on the ground floor, with two bedroom suites on the first floor. To help the building blend into the countryside, a wildflower meadow grows over a one-storey section of the house. ‘The studio wing is partly built into the hillside and the ground banks up to obscure it further,’ says architect Spencer Back, of Designscape Architects.

The 10-month build ran smoothly. The Aikens, who are both retired architects, lived on site in a caravan and worked as project managers, hiring contractors and even doing 30 per cent of the work themselves. The expense of roofed-in scaffolding was worthwhile because no days were lost to bad weather. ‘We worked on the project for a year before the build. Planning and a good team are key to a successful project,’ says Diana.