Clever low-rise design results in accessible, effortless living
A single-storey house on one level is a highly desirable self-build or renovation option. It offers the possibility that all rooms lead outside, as well as providing an easy connection between the living spaces. Obtaining planning consent may be easier for low-rise designs as they are unlikely to disrupt their surroundings or impose on nearby properties. Plus, without stairs, these homes are simpler for all ages and abilities to move through.
1. Pared-back approach
Jaap Maas and Marieke Jansen kept things simple with their £375,000 self-build in Sint-Oedenrode, a town in North Brabant, the Netherlands. The steel-framed 160sqm home looks like a converted warehouse thanks to a gridded floor plan, industrial materials and ceiling heights that range from 3m to 4m. This suits the couple, who wanted the house to reflect their passion for mid-century modern architecture and provide space for their collection of vintage furniture. Large-format glazing wraps three sides of the building, offering panoramic views of surrounding farmland. The interiors look warm and cosy thanks to the timber panels that line many of the walls and the ceilings. The floor plan includes three bedrooms, giving the couple room to start a family in the future. (rhaw.nl)
2. Underground house
This ultra-modern bunker may look like it belongs in a Bond movie, but it’s a farmhouse and the family home of a couple with two teenage children. With most of the structure sunk into a meadow and set beneath a green roof, the 375sqm, three-bedroom single-storey house was designed by CF Møller Architects to be almost invisible. This was to satisfy planning authorities concerned about its visual impact, as it is on a historic stretch of coast in Vestfold, Norway. The house can only be seen from the south, where a glazed wall connects the living spaces with a patio garden and swimming pool. But the interior still benefits from plenty of natural light thanks to 12 skylights and a lightwell beside the entrance.
3. A countryside connection
This characterful 114sqm home in Droxford, Hampshire, is a pair of converted farm buildings with walls of solid flint and brick. An old cow shed, until recently used as a stable, makes up the living room, kitchen, dining room and main bedroom, while a guest bedroom is in the former woodshed. The two blocks are linked by a new glazed corridor that doubles as a winter garden. The buildings were originally part of a bigger house belonging to the owner, an elderly lady who wanted to downsize but had struggled to find the right property in the same village. Emrys Architects convinced her to divide the plot to create a bespoke home and keep part of her beloved garden. The build cost for the conversion was £340,000 and includes high levels of insulation, an air-source heat pump and underfloor heating.
4. Up to the roof
Architecture studio Edition Office designed this 223sqm house in Kyneton, Victoria, Australia, for a couple downsizing to a single-storey house from a bigger family home. Their new house has few individual rooms – there’s an open-plan living room, dining room and kitchen, plus an en-suite bedroom, study and a toilet. Yet the interiors look incredibly spacious thanks to the high ceilings, which expose the underside of the pyramid-shaped roof. Deep brick walls give the house a robust quality, while full-height windows and sliding glass doors, including a set of five doors spanning the north-facing exterior, help make the garden feel like part of the interior.
5. Modernist restoration
Functional simplicity is a fundamental quality of modernist architecture, so it’s no surprise that many mid- century houses are organised over one level. Designed in 1957 by the renowned architect Peter Wormesley, High Sunderland is a good example. Incorporating sheltered courtyards and numerous glazed walls, this 273sqm, four-bedroom house near Galashiels in the Scottish Borders brings the surrounding woodland into every living space. A 2017 fire nearly destroyed the building, but new owners Juliet Kinchin and Paul Stirton took the opportunity to bring it back to its former glory. Loader Monteith Architects oversaw a £290,000 renovation that restored the timber-panelled interior and included an air-source heat pump and underfloor heating for comfort and energy efficiency.
6. Cliffside villa
A single-storey house provided the ideal solution for this self-build on a steep hillside overlooking Woolacombe Bay in north Devon. Not only was it crucial to homeowners Deborah and Tim Vos in gaining planning permission, it also allowed architecture practice Studio Fuse to design a building that follows the topography of the site. Built for £550,000, the house is divided into three tiers that descend incrementally, culminating in a huge picture window facing towards the sea. This helps to divide the open-plan living space into zones, with four en-suite bedrooms slotted in alongside. For the exterior, the couple chose charred timber – using a process called shou sugi ban – which allows the building to feel more at home in the coastal landscape.
7. Better bungalow
Single-storey homes can be easier to reconfigure, as Joris Couwet and Patricia Van Loon discovered when renovating a 1960s bungalow in De Haan, Belgium, for themselves and their two children. Without stairs in the way, studio Graux & Baeyens was able to strip back the interior of the concrete block and steel structure.
The revamp reorganises the layout into three areas, with three bedrooms at the front, a living room and courtyard in the middle, and a kitchen and dining room at the back, facing the garden. Working to a construction budget of £1,000 per sqm, the couple opted for a deliberately pared-back finish that allows the building’s structure to become the standout feature.
8. Woodland pavillion
With its glazed exterior walls and slender projecting roof, this ultra-modern single-storey house takes its cues from Mies van der Rohe’s famous Barcelona Pavilion. Designed by Broadway Malyan and built for £3,600 per sqm, the house is in Lechlade, Gloucestershire. Owners Ray and Prilly Baron, both in their eighties, felt that single storey buildings would not only suit their needs, but would also be appropriate for the plot in a woodland clearing. All rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows, with many spanning entire walls so the couple can enjoy views of the trees throughout the home. But the three bedrooms – one of which is used as an art studio – are towards the back of the house, away from prying eyes.
9. Upscale design
By downsizing from a two-storey, end-of-terrace house, a lady of retirement age in Lanškroun, Czech Republic, gained a significant upgrade. Looking for a home to suit her increasingly limited mobility and give her more opportunities to enjoy the garden, she worked with architect Martin Neruda to replace the terraced house with a low-level one that wraps around a secluded courtyard. Full-height windows front the courtyard, providing ample light without compromising privacy. The rooms are tiered to follow the slope of the landscape. The build and interior fit-out were completed for £1,700 per sqm, and the house includes two bedrooms, so there is room for family to come and stay.
10. Flexible hideaway
By keeping their self-build to a single-storey house, Doug and Wendy Smith created a completely private home. Doug, a principal at architecture firm TP Bennett, worked with colleague Sam Clarke to design a building in Kent that only becomes visible as you descend its long, tree-lined driveway. The four-bedroom house was completed for around £3,820 per sqm. The open-plan living space and kitchen are at the heart of the home, with everything else in the two wings on either side. Siberian larch shutters offer extra privacy and shade, while sliding partitions can be used to subdivide the interior. There’s even a garden studio, which is raised up on stilts to ensure it’s at the same level as the rest of the house.