Welsh architecture and design practice Rural Office reveals that its newly completed residential project in Farnham, Surrey, has made it to the RIBA House of the Year 2023 shortlist, a prestigious award given to the best house designed by an architect in the United Kingdom.
About the project:
Nestled in a conservation area of the Surrey Garden suburbs, in the market town of Farnham, the Middle Avenue House is a 285 sqm family home that replaces an interwar bungalow.
The design stands out for its contemporary interpretation of the Surrey vernacular, coupled with the use of traditional materials inspired by the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement.
The dwelling, which occupies a corner plot, pays homage to the architectural style of the 19th century, reflecting a sense of warmth and comfort. The entire perimeter of the house is enveloped by a mature laurel hedge that serves as a point of visual reference, ensuring seclusion from the street while delineating garden enclosures that frame connections to various interior areas.
The most striking feature of the house is its steep roof, clad in red-clay Keymer tiles, highlighting brown, weathered zinc dormer windows of varying sizes and two chimneys at the top.
“The steeply pitched roof and white gables that face the two roads are the only visible parts of the house, the ground floor consumed by the hedge. It is a homage to the Surrey Vernacular, a nod to the work of Faulkner and Lutyens who worked on this patch” explains Niall Maxwell, founding Director, Rural Office.
Within the pitched roof, one finds the private quarters of the residence, including bedrooms, bathrooms, and study areas. Dormer windows play a pivotal role as the primary light source for these areas while capturing scenic views of the surrounding gardens and landscape.
Each dormer serves as a cosy nook for reading, studying or working. The upper-level dormers, strategically placed above the bathrooms, form taller, intimate spaces at the core of the floor plan, offering glimpses of the sky.
Access to the residence is through a garden gate on the southern side, where a half-arched window accentuates the prominence of the roof and offers a glance into the open-plan living area of the ground floor.
A covered entrance serves as a sheltered point of arrival, leading to an intimate lobby. The architectural layout centres around a triple-height hall that connects both levels of the home and visually links all interior spaces with the external garden areas on the east, south, and west sides.
Inside, the residence employs a selection of natural materials. From brown brick forms used for the flooring and fireplace to the walls adorned with white-painted plaster and timber panelling, lending an inviting and warm ambience.
A low-energy dwelling, the design incorporates triple glazing, an airtight envelope, and mechanical heat recovery systems.