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The Oaks, New dwelling, Exeter

'It was a beautiful autumn evening when we stood with Annie at our somewhat intimidating building site and decided to embark on an unusual and challenging project together. From that moment to handing us back the impressive modern building that we are now very lucky to call our home, she was a real pleasure to work with. Through all aspects of the project, from planning to identifying and engaging trades and suppliers, she offered her professionalism and genuine understanding of high-specification buildings, as well as sound advice and friendly reassurance. Annie worked well with the contractors to find cost-effective solutions that met both aesthetic and statutory requirements, always assertively and effectively but without taking-over. She has a strong eye for detail, and an extraordinary ability to produce beautiful sketches for on-the-spot ideas that were later followed up with detailed plans and CGIs that were readable and exciting! I highly recommend Annie’s expertise and general approach; she would be the first person we call about any conversion or building project in the future.' - Client

The Oaks was an unfinished, replacement, detached dwelling, set on a north facing steeply sloping site, on the edge of the Duryard Estate, adjacent to the University. The project had been undertaken piecemeal over a period of 10 years, nothing was completed and nothing was standard construction – see photos.

For sustainable and cost reasons the Owner was keen to retain the two-storey frame. The approved proposal was considered too complex, large (at 407m2) and expensive to construct, so we took a fresh, more modest, sustainable approach, employing the existing structural frame and retaining structures where possible.

The revised design:

  • From the entrance to the property the house is deliberately modest and low-key. A single storey mid-level entrance area draws in arrivals from the carparking area and acts as a separation between the more public entrance area and more private south facing courtyard.
  • The dwelling opens up as you progress through the site and the slope allows the three storey building to fit comfortably into the hillside.
  • The main living areas are on the ground and lower ground floor, and located to suit the use i.e. the immediate and distant views, sun, access to existing external courtyards, terraces, balconies etc. Where applicable glazed sliding doors allow the garden to be an extension of the living areas.
  • Materials The design seeks to make sense of the existing structure visually as well as practically. The proposed standing seam metal clad walls is employed to unify the two-storey element and blends into the landscape setting.

The project was completed largely within budget and within the timeframes agreed despite taking on an unknown structure, increasing material costs and covid.