Many people remain intimidated by architecture. Not merely by the technical language in which buildings are commonly described by professionals, but by the mind-stretching demands of working and thinking in three dimensions. One curious consequence of this collective shyness is that architecture remains poorly understood, and, when buildings are unsatisfactory, most people are perfectly aware of the fact, but are at a loss to explain why.

Nowhere is the irony of this situation more pointed than in our own homes. These are the places with which we are most familiar and which we have the power to change. Nevertheless, we can live with their faults poor circulation between spaces, north-facing living rooms or a façade marred by car parking-for long periods, sensing, but not seeing, how they might be improved.

In this engaging new series, Country Life, with the help of the eminent architect and writer Ptolemy Dean, aims to encourage readers to think about their houses and stimulate them to change them for the better. To do this, we have approached five leading architects; one setting out on his career; and one other acclaimed figure with longstanding experience of architectural design. As a group, they represent a wide diversity of experience and approach to house improvements.

Each has been presented with the plan of a different house that requires renovation. The seven buildings are deliberately varied in character, from a timber-framed and thatched cottage, and a fine old rectory to a tower house, a modern farmhouse and a Classical villa. They are also in differing conditions of repair, ranging from the derelict and dangerous to the insensitively adapted or merely tired.

In every case, Country Life has compiled a client’s brief for alterations to the respective property. These have been partly informed by advice from leading estate agents aware of changes that would improve the appeal of the particular house in market terms. Working to this brief, but with the encouragement to respond imaginatively to it, a series of fascinating and thought-provoking proposals for changing the different houses has been drawn up. One of these proposals will be published in each issue over the next seven weeks. Each article follows a common format.

The first page introduces the relevant house prior to its adaptation. Also set out are the terms of the brief, as well as the biography of the architect or designer responding to it. There follows a series of presentation drawings prepared by them and a brief summary of what they have attempted to do. Mr Dean has also written a short introduction and response to each proposal.

This series is fundamentally intended to demystify your home as a work of architecture. In the process, it seeks to make you perceive clearly its strengths and weaknesses. On a more practical level, it also aims to introduce the different ways in which architects think about their work and the manner in which they present their ideas. Vision and understanding by themselves are not sufficient to create a dream house, but they are the essential foundation stones for any such venture.

Week 1
September 1

 Classical overhaul

A Classical overhaul
Hugh Petter reorders a large Georgian house and its adjoining service range

Week 2
September 8

Radical Classicism

Radical Classicism
Craig Hamilton outlines his vision for the transformation of a house into a sculptor’s paradise

Week 3
September 15

Green solution

A Green solution
Jenny Humphreys renovates a beautiful but derelict farm and its surroundings with an eye to self-sufficiency
 

Week 4
September 22

A contemporary ligature
James Gorst enlarges a former rectory by connecting it to a group of existing outbuildings

A contemporary ligature

Week 5
September 29

Sympathetic extension

A sympathetic extension
Jane Kennedy enlarges a charming timber-framed and thatched family house and reconfigures its setting

Week 6
October 6

Young talent

Young talent
Charles Page grapples with the problems of circulation and lighting in a tower house

Week 7
October 13

Restructuring a home

Restructuring a home
Charles Morris decisively reconstitutes the design and setting of a house

  • Lenore Belcher

    I would like to see an article on what one could do with a perfectly ordinary 1975ish built family house with no special featuress to recommend it. Seriously, it is easy to visualise what to do with an already beautifully or interestingly designed home such as the ones you are featuring.