A home for an Architect: The Wood House, Tatsfield

The Architect’s house is among the most enduring and appealing of building typologies, offering the designer the opportunity to literally bring home their work and skills. The Wood House, the recently completed home of Allies and Morrison Partner Jason Syrett and his family, is a new example of this long tradition.

In late 2013, Jason came across a one acre plot in the middle of woodland in the North Downs, on the edge of London. It provided the chance to create a new family home set within a secluded setting in one of the highest villages in the area. The sloped site had an existing old house and outbuildings, which were in a very poor state and accessible by only steep steps through thick woodland. They made way for a new house of two rectangular volumes hinged around a double-height space and staircase that embrace the site’s topography and ecology. A brick lower volume fronts a south facing garden; while a timber clad upper level looks out across the valley. The interlocking forms, each of different but complimentary materials, create a dialogue of subtle contrasts that works well in this landscape.

‘It was important to us in building a new house on this site that it appropriately integrated itself within its sloping woodland setting’, says Jason.

A family of timber components and detailing form a part of the overall building composition, adding texture and visual interest as one encounters the house up close. These elements include a bridge spanning from the sloping landscape to the upper level, a cantilevered balcony to the west that looks out over to the garden, detailed panels, a curved bicycle shed and a bespoke bench.

Inside, the layout is arranged as an upside down house with the living spaces located east/west above to maximise views out to the garden, whilst the bedrooms are set below, arranged on the shaded, more ‘domestic’ north/south axis. A light and airy double height space connects the main upper level living spaces with the ground floor play room and garden entrance.

Sustainability was integral to the design. The house follows Passivhaus principles resulting in significant energy reductions. It has been built using a timber frame, heavily insulated with recycled newspaper pumped insulation and triple glazing, and is ventilated with an MVHR system that recovers heat from exhausted air and recycles it to reheat fresh air taken from outside. The ground floor wing has a sedum planted green roof whilst the upper level has solar panels and rainwater harvesting for non-potable water use in the house and garden. Ecologically sensitive and well-crafted, The Wood House is a modern house with a softer side – a warm and inviting place for a family to call home