Country Life delves into its bulging little black book to bring you our list of the elite architects you need if you're considering serious work on your home.
All country houses are shaped by their setting. It’s a relationship that’s hugely complex to manage correctly. Everything from framing the correct views from the windows to meeting the challenges of 21st-century living — informal spaces with built-in flexibility for entertaining when required — demands careful thought.
Thanks to the support and expertise available, there’s never been a better time to tackle a new-build country house project. Whether your taste is for the Postmodern or neo-Classical, there’s an extraordinary pool of talent available in Britain, some of it worldrenowned.
In addition, with the (albeit marginal) relaxation of planning laws — specifically, National Planning Policy Framework Paragraph 55, which replaces some fiendishly complicated regulations — constructing new country houses on greenfield sites isn’t quite as challenging as it once was.
It won’t be within everyone’s desire or grasp to start a new country house from scratch, but the more than 300,000 owners of Grade II, Grade II* and Grade I listed houses in England and Category A and B houses in Scotland are also comprehensively served by practices that have deep, specialist knowledge in the restoration and refurbishment of these important historic buildings. Some of those listed are formed of several individuals with specialist experience of country-house work.
World-renowned team of six architects with a portfolio spanning many countries and vernacular styles from Regency to modern Classical via Palladian and Arts-and-Crafts.
They say: ‘We’re one of the leading practitioners of traditional and progressive architecture and contextual urbanism in Europe’
We say: ‘Impeccable credentials for designing new-build country houses in a traditional vernacular and a favourite of The Prince of Wales’
01962 843843; www.adamarchitecture.com
Andrew Jones Associates
Residential work comprises barn conversions, loft conversions and extensions. London clients include developer Candy & Candy and designer Kelly Hoppen.
They say: ‘We promote enthusiasm and co-operation among all parties involved’
We say: ‘A hands-on architect with a modern touch and a strong emphasis on natural light’
www.andrewjonesassociates.com; 020 8643 0601
Andrew Wright Associates
Architect and masterplanner who works in a dramatic and modern idiom. Current projects include Higher Mapston, a twin-domed new family house within the Dartmoor National Park.
They say: ‘Design should respond to each individual situation. When it does, the personality that emerges helps to enhance and define a very special sense of place’
We say: ‘Inspirational contemporary and sustainable designer of new country houses’
This Highlands-based design and architecture firm was founded by Lachlan and Annie Stewart in the early 1980s and undertakes projects in the UK and overseas, with a particular focus on the restoation and conservation of historic buildings in Scotland. He is the architect, she runs an interior-design and homeware business.
They say: ‘Our architecture is strongly informed by the Scottish vernacular and we are best known for our own interpretation and contemporary take on the building tradition’
We say: ‘Fearless outfit that’s perfect for seemingly insurmountable conversions of Scottish castles’
01862 832477; www.anta.co.uk
Ben and his large team design new-build houses in a range of Classical styles. Ben is also a big player in the masterplanning of the Duchy of Cornwall’s Poundbury development in Dorset.
They say: ‘Whatever the size of project, we apply the same principles: an understanding of scale and proportion, intelligent care and attention to detail and the creation of buildings that feel timeless and appropriate to place’
We say: ‘A real talent who can draw, design and write beautifully about his life, which dances between Dorset and Bloomsbury. He’s in such demand, we’re not sure that he ever sleeps’
020 7430 2526; www.benpentreath.com
Birds Portchmouth Russum Architects
Modern practice whose most recent countryhouse success was Downley House, an original sequence of differently shaped buildings that incorporated the ruined walls and set within the existing walls of an earlier house located in a hidden valley in the South Downs AONB.
They say: ‘Our ideas draw strength from urban, historical and social analysis, contemporary culture and art through to the technology of construction’
We say: ‘Thought-provoking practice if you’re looking to do something highly distinctive’
www.birdsportchmouthrussum.com; 020 7253 8205
Craig Hamilton Architects
Specialists in progressive Classical and traditional houses in a country and urban context that has undertaken several commissions for chapels in recent years, including one that won a Georgian Group Award last year.
They say: ‘We are committed to the development of the Classical language of architecture’
We say: ‘Excellent pedigree—The Prince of Wales is a fan—and at the top of the Classical architecture game’
01982 553312; www.craighamiltonarchitects.com
Donald Insall Associates
When it comes to managing, repairing and adapting historic buildings as well as newbuild houses, this large practice of seven offices knows its game. Its experience and its portfolio of work are very impressive.
They say: ‘We are a leading conservation architecture practice with more than 50 years’ experience in the care, repair and adaptation of historic buildings’
We say: ‘Experts in knowing how to bring an old country house into the 21st century’
www.donaldinsallassociates.co.uk; 020 7245 9888
Francis Johnson and Partners
Probably best known for designing large-scale new-build country houses that are respectful of local vernaculars in England, it was the first practice to complete a house under the requirements of PPG7 (‘Gummer’s Law’). The practice also undertakes modestly sized houses.
They say: ‘We have a reputation for the design of new buildings in Classical and traditional styles as well as the scholarly repair and restoration of historic buildings’
We say: ‘There is no whiff of cookie-cutter style here. This is a versatile a practice with a good track record of delivering well-designed, individual new country houses’
www.francisjohnson-architects.co.uk; 01262 674043
Francis Terry and Associates
Francis Terry recently left his father’s practice after more than 20 years (see Quinlan & Francis Terry, below) and his newly established eight-strong team promises great things in the future.
They say: ‘Our approach is to design buildings that satisfy the needs of our clients while simultaneously creating beautiful architecture’
We say: ‘A master draughtsman with tremendous experience and empathy for the neo- Classical tradition’
01206 580528; ftanda.co.uk
Giles Quarme & Associates
Experts in the conservation, restoration and alteration of historical buildings in the UK and overseas—the practice was most recently commissioned to work on an Edwardian colonial building in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
They say: ‘We specialise in all aspects of work relating to historic buildings and the design of new buildings within Conservation Areas and AONBs’
We say: ‘A practice particularly worth approaching if you’re tackling a project on a listed house in one of London’s conservation areas’
020 7582 0748; www.quarme.com
Tom Smith has won awards for his residential work in Gloucestershire, including the sensitive conversion of an early-19th-century stone-built threshing barn into an eco-friendly family home.
They say: ‘Our design process aims for an architecture that balances poetic and rational sensibilities’
We say: ‘A good mix of experience for anyone with projects in both London and the countryside and looking to use one practice’
020 7998 1525; www.gluckmansmith.com
Nicholas Groves-Raines has more than 30 years’ experience in the sensitive and constructive reuse of historic and listed buildings, with a particular focus on Scottish projects.
They say: ‘My technique is very much of the present while respecting our architectural heritage and preserving it for the future’
We say: ‘Super-stylish approach to both the exteriors and interiors of historic Scottish properties, with a focus on creating comfortable family homes’
0131 467 7777; grovesraines.com
Hoare, Ridge & Morris
Multi-skilled practice that runs from masterplanning village extensions right through to the design of furniture and interiors, with a strong bent on sustainability. Experienced in gaining planning permission for major alterations to Grade I-listed properties.
They say: ‘We work on sensitive historic sites, alter and repair important listed buildings as well as design significant new buildings’
We say: ‘Strong East-Anglian team that’s really interested in delivering energy improvements to old houses’
01728 688747; www.hrma.co.uk
James Gorst Architects
Although the practice also works on the conservation and restoration of historic buildings, designs for new houses tend to be in a modern idiom. Current projects include a large, contemporary country house with estate buildings in Northamptonshire.
They say: ‘We design contextually responsive, individual buildings that entwine aesthetic values with functional rationalism’
We say: ‘Definitely worth considering if you’re looking to build a new house or or sympathetically adapt an old one in a contemporary style’
020 7336 7140; www.jamesgorstarchitects.com
John Simpson Architects
An outstanding body of work on important institutions and buildings—the practice was responsible for the new McCrum Yard at Eton College, opened by The Prince of Wales in 2015. Other projects include the Soaneinspired Ashfold House in West Sussex and buildings in Poundbury.
They say: ‘Architecture is a public art in which each and every building façade forms the character and shape of the public realm’
We say: ‘A firm that excels at building country houses designed for the 21st-century family’
www.johnsimpsonarchitects.com; 020 7405 1285
John Stark & Crickmay Partnership
Long-established Dorset practice with a broad portfolio of work ranging from rebuilding Ince Castle in Cornwall following a fire to new-build houses and domestic extensions.
They say: ‘We work on all aspects of conservation as well as new buildings on sensitive sites, sympathetic alterations and additions’
We say: ‘Good full-service practice with allround expertise’
01305 262636; www.jscp.co.uk
Julian Bicknell & Associates
A London-based specialist in new-build houses in the traditional or Classical style, with a strong focus on the South-East, notably, the Wentworth and St George’s Hill estates.
They say: ‘Our design philosophy combines a deep sympathy for traditional design and building methods with a full understanding of energy strategies and construction management’
We say: ‘Can design on a large scale: big houses are the practice’s bread and butter’
020 8891 1001; www.julianbicknell.co.uk
Kay Pilsbury Thomas Architects
A family practice of architects and interior designers working with old and listed buildings from country houses to cottages and barn conversions mainly in East Anglia and London.
They say: ‘We have a vast knowledge of historic buildings of all periods and how they have evolved over the centuries’
We say: ‘Good knowledge of the East Anglian vernacular’
01799 599208; www.kpt.co.uk
Not all designers of buildings are qualified architects. Kit Rae-Scott is one such, with a remarkable portfolio of work in the South- West, including Shilstone in Devon, the winner of the Georgian Group’s new building in the Classical tradition award in 2011
They say: Nothing—and you won’t find a website
We say: ‘For a meticulously designed country house in a traditional idiom that suits its locality, Mr Rae-Scott is hard to beat’
01297 22172; firstname.lastname@example.org
Lindsay Buchan Architects
Edinburgh-based architect with a track record of successful negotiations with planning departments and Historic Scotland. The practice has tackled projects throughout the UK.
They say: ‘There is no house style. I believe in appropriate, sympathetic design and not subscribing to current fashions just for the sake of it’
We say: ‘Definitely worth considering for projects around Edinburgh and East Lothian’
0131 554 9008; www.lindsaybuchan.com
A London-based architect who began his career working on historic and listed buildings for the Grosvenor and Cadogan estates. He has begun to take on major country-house projects, including Encombe, Dorset.
They say: ‘I seek to respect the character and history of the buildings I work on, unpicking past mistakes, choosing appropriate materials and making them suitable for modern-day use’
We say: ‘Takes a thoughtful, practical and realistic approach to the problems of restoring historic buildings. No website’
020 7498 9361; email@example.com
Ptolemy Dean Architects
A Country Life contributor and specialist in historic preservation as well as the designer of new houses in sensitive locations—we’re big fans. He’s also the Surveyor of the Fabric at Westminster Abbey, where he’s building a new stair tower to the triforium.
They say: Very little—the website is just one page. Which speaks volumes
We say: ‘A very safe pair of hands and particularly skilled in making thoughtful and sensitive additions to historic buildings’
020 7378 7714; www.ptolemydean.co.uk
With numerous regional offices, Purcell has been involved in major restoration projects of country houses and historic buildings across the country, including work at Stowe, Wentworth Woodhouse and Fulham Palace as well as work on historic churches.
They say: ‘We guide buildings’ transformations, help clients to build new structures and create new spaces through bespoke design’
We say: ‘Impressive track record of planning the refurbishment and redevelopment of sensitive historic buildings’
020 7397 7171; www.purcelluk.com
Quinlan & Francis Terry Architects
Continuing in the Classical architecture tradition of the practice started by Raymond Erith in 1928, this is one of the major players operating today. Recent projects include the new infirmary at the Royal Hospital Chelsea and Queen Mother Square in Poundbury.
They say: ‘Our philosophy is to make new buildings fit so well into their context that they look like they have always been there’
We say: ‘Classical and traditional architects par excellence with an impressive record for securing planning permission for completely new country houses’
01206 323186; www.qftarchitects.com
Simpson & Brown Architects
Edinburgh-based practice with wide-ranging skills such as for castles, distilleries and monuments —it’s looked after Lindisfarne for the National Trust since 1990.
They say: ‘While respecting the past, our architecture strives to respond to the challenges of the future’
We say: ‘Excellent all-rounder, especially for projects with an archaeological aspect’
0131 555 4678; www.simpsonandbrown.co.uk
Stuart Martin Architects
Dorset-based practice originally based on conservation work, but now increasingly involved in new-build houses, including a cedar-clad house in Rock, Cornwall.
They say: ‘We are an award-winning architectural practice that designs innovative traditional houses’
We say: ‘Accomplished practice that delivers many different styles and finishes’
01935 83543; www.stuartmartinarchitects.com
Thomas Croft Architects
West London-based practice that’s worked for Sir Paul McCartney, Richard Curtis and Philip Mould among others. Projects include a new brick, flint and pantile holiday house in north Norfolk and a barn that’s an interesting collage of architectural fragments.
They say: ‘We specialise in introducing contemporary interventions in historic buildings or new buildings that relate strongly to historic settings’
We say: ‘A good choice for those who like robust architectural statements’
020 8962 0066; thomascroft.com
Thomas Ford & Partners
Although religious buildings are a particular area of specialism for the practice, completed commissions also include the restoration of Pugin’s house in Ramsgate, Kent. It’s also worked for The Landmark Trust.
They say: ‘We relish the challenge of unusual projects’
We say: ‘Huge depth of knowledge’
020 8659 3250; www.thomasford.co.uk
Watson, Bertram & Fell
Broad-spectrum practice with experience in country and town houses as well as village masterplanning for the Duchy of Cornwall and Crown Estate and country estates such as Ilchester and Ozleworth.
They say: ‘We are a long-established, awardwinning practice with a reputation for fine architecture’
We say: ‘Very strong experience of countryhouse renovation in the West Country’
01225 337273; www.wbf-bath.co.uk
Classic to contemporary architect based in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, it specialises in new country houses as well as the conversion and remodelling of existing ones. Typically working with very high-end clients, it also designs glass-walled pool houses and lavish wine cellars.
They say: ‘Our projects are always a response to the individual characteristics of a site’
We say: ‘An established go-to practice, with particular strength in the Cotswolds’
01285 888150; yiangou.com