Janine Stone’s Jeremy Spencer on how houses need not just blend into their settings, but can actively enhance them

When creating a new country house, there are plenty of inspiring examples of how it can sit seamlessly into its setting. Country Life’s Executive Editor Giles Kime talks to Jeremy Spencer of Janine Stone about the inspiration he finds in the position and character of a site.

Britain’s most beautiful houses take the lead from their natural surroundings and orientation to make the most of both their views and natural light. You don’t need to look far for inspiration, from traditional village houses to our great country houses, which not only blend into their settings but do an enormous amount to enhance them. The architectural team at Janine Stone has an enviable reputation for creating new houses with a look and feel that blend seamlessly with their surroundings.

With a deep understanding of classic architecture, traditional craftsmanship and state-of-the-art technology, the company has all the necessary skills and design flair to bring a new house and its setting to life.

How does the situation of a house dictate its design?

Studying the context of the house is the starting line for any architectural project and it is second only to the client relationship in terms of importance. Whether the house is existing, derelict, yet to be a reality or anything in between, it is a vital consideration.

We will always gather as much information as we can, so we can analyse the historical, social, infrastructural, geographical, climatic and legal parameters unique to each project. The more context that can be gathered, the better informed we are to produce the design. Context is the foundation of the design and project goals.

Finding inspiration from the context keeps the focus on reality and on achieving the desired scheme. There is always a duality in architecture between the aesthetic and pragmatic, establishing the parameters within which our creativity can fly. We can then tune into a client’s sense of identity as we give shape to the everyday spaces of their lives.

Over the pandemic, there has been even more pressure on the house to evolve. Privacy and the separation of living and work, the family and the nature of domesticity is directly reflected in the way we design for our clients, making sure that their specific needs are fulfilled within the context of their house.

What about a house’s orientation?

The topography of a site can always inspire the design. Each site is distinctive, whether steeply sloping, clear and open, built up in a city, heavily wooded, on the edge of a village or by water. On a steeply sloping site, the orientation has an amplified influence on the design.

Traditionally, we like our entrances on the north-facing aspect and private gardens to the south, so a house on a north-facing slope presents issues to a sunloving client. There are myriad possibilities to draw from, whether to enter the house from the highest point or from the lowest, how far the house is cut into the slope, how to maximise the views and how to bring the sun in when and where it’s wanted.

Does woodland or parkland have a bearing on design?

Any new building should always sit in harmony with its surroundings. Parkland and woodland sites are highly sought after and offer rich opportunities in the positioning of the property on the plot. The landscape design is considered from the outset to include all the benefits provided by the site.

Building near trees requires special consideration to ensure that the house isn’t structurally compromised and the established surroundings are enhanced.

We always endeavour to make the most of the natural assets of a scheme, with the clients’ desires always a priority. Key to refining a design is a detailed digital survey of the site, whether it’s a building to retain or the lie of the land on which to build. The existing drawings are crucial at the planning stage and, in preparing or studying them, the architect gains invaluable spatial, constructional and aesthetic knowledge.

How can a design maximise the possibilities of a view?

Maximising particular views can be achieved in different ways. They are a feature that is always unique to a property.

Framing a view from a chair, a bed, an axis of circulation, a bathroom or kitchen needs to be planned early, so the height of the sill and the width of the window can be just right for the viewer from the inside and sit comfortably on the elevation on the outside.

Oriel and bay windows can give extra flexibility and breadth of perspective. Floor-to-ceiling glazing can really bring the outside in, but when a view is captured in an unexpected way, it can become part of the life and soul of the house, and a conversation piece for visitors. In a townhouse, it is sometimes possible to achieve a private view out over the urban landscape that isn’t overlooked and feels personal and uplifting — a happy contrast to the distracting sights of the city once you leave the front door.

At Janine Stone, we will always endeavour to create the best house possible for our clients with our architectural and interior creativity, using all its context, so that the everyday spaces that they will live in can inspire and uplift their lives. To speak with Janine Stone & Co about your project, please telephone 020–7349 8888 or visit www.janinestone.com