When Borders Architects approached Quercus to build Iain Prain and Victoria Hardcastle’s replacement house in the Yarrow valley we decided we could rise to the challenge. The old cottage had been added to with poorly built short life extensions and the vision of a new and efficient dwelling within their superb mature garden was a compelling one. With some nostalgia and after a record had been made the cottage was demolished in April 2013.
The Architect’s design has a bedroom wing next to the road with a monopitch slate roof echoing the old cottage. The linking living room is deliberately dark to remember the “winter palace” that was the core of the old cottage. A two storey section of the house has an open plan kitchen and dining space linking to the living room. A stair leads off the entrance hall to the upper living room, or “summer palace” as it is known. This brightly lit space looks over the flat sedum roofs to the garden and burn below. During construction this space adequately showed how unnecessary heating is in an insulated draughtproof house that is acquiring passive solar gain. A figure of 2.3 was achieved in air tightness testing. This is well below target and justifying the Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery system (MVHR), which keeps the air fresh throughout the house. Quercus had an important partner in Renew Green Energy of Galashiels who installed this system. They were also responsible for the air source heat pump connecting to underfloor heating, the electrics, the plumbing and the photovoltaic panels.
The house has a mixture of smooth scratch coat render and larch cladding on its elevations in an uncompromising modern design that nonetheless is an attractive addition to the landscape. More or less on time and budget after some late changes the house was ready for occupation at the end of 2013. The proud owners are enjoying the option of not lighting the stove all the time and of finding new views of the garden from the house. The house is being knitted slowly back into the garden with the completion of dry stone walls and natural stone pathways.