Houzz Tour: A Rundown Devon Cottage Gets a Contemporary Update
An inspiring blend of old and new architecture transforms a derelict cottage into a modern home with elegant proportions
Part of the appeal was that, although it had fallen into disrepair, the house is located in four acres of beautiful woodland, which came with the lot. “It has one of those really wonderful approaches – you come through a gated entrance and wind through this landscaped woodland for about 100 yards and then you see the house at the end of the drive,” says architect Eilir Sheryn of van Ellen + Sheryn. “It’s a classic country house approach.”
Who lives here? A couple entering retirement
Location Dartmoor National Park, Devon
Property An early 17th century cottage with a modern rear addition
Size Five bedrooms and three bathrooms
Architect Eilir Sheryn of van Ellen + Sheryn
Photos by Richard Downer Photography
Eilir could see the house itself was a combination of two different parts and that, at some point in its history, the older part at the back of the building had been improved with a newer Georgian extension at the front. “The first thing we did was analyse what we had and try to understand its merits and weaknesses,” he says.
They decided to knock down what didn’t work and sympathetically restore the better elements of the existing house, enhancing it with a new extension at the back. As the house wasn’t listed, planning went through without a hitch.
“It was important that the Georgian elevation took pride of place within the plot,” Eilir says. “We knew we didn’t want to compete with that, so any extension would have to be set back and not interfere with the proportions of the existing building.”
To ensure the front of the extension was in harmony with its older counterpart, they mirrored the three windows on the first floor, used slate-coloured zinc on the roof, and clad it in Siberian larch.
A big discussion the team had was around the advantages of retaining the render compared to exposing the old stone. “When you have an old building like this, if it’s rendered, it’s generally for a purpose,” Eilir says. “The Georgians would either expose good cut stone or build out of poorer stone and render over it, so our initial reaction was that it needed to be lime rendered.”
“It really works,” Eilir says. “The fact it’s exposed adds an extra layer of detail and interest.”
Find reviewed architects and interior designers in your area on Houzz.
Siberian larch, Brunel Supplies.
They chose the glazed link between the old house and the new extension as the most practical point of entry, partly because it’s near where the cars are parked, but also because it’s next to the utility room. “Being on Dartmoor, they need a ‘decontamination zone’ where they could drop all their walking paraphernalia,” Eilir says.
“People like an old cottage for its historic charm, but there are also restrictions with what you have – bad ceiling heights and a lack of natural light,” Eilir says. “So if you can add something that’s light and transparent that connects well to the outside spaces, you can have a bit of everything.”
Porcelain floor tiles, Mandarin Stone.
He thinks the owners feel the same way. “Overall, their favourite element is the tranquillity,” he says. “This really is a very special place.”
Landscaping, Alice Blount Garden Design.
What do you like best about the rebirth of this crumbling old building? Let us know in the Comments.